The role of dietary protein intake in the prevention of sarcopenia of aging

Jeannette M. Beasley, James M. Shikany, Cynthia A. Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Sarcopenia is defined as an age-related decrease in muscle mass and performance. Several consensus definitions of sarcopenia exist, each providing different cut points and methodologies for assessing muscle mass and muscle strength. Thus, wide variation in the prevalence of sarcopenia has been reported, generally ranging up to 45% for men and 26% for women. Risk factors for sarcopenia include age, malnutrition, and physical inactivity. Additional evidence suggests a protective role for protein supplementation in older adults to preserve lean body mass and prevent frailty, accepted intervention targets for reducing the risk of sarcopenia. Protein supplements vary widely in their composition, and small trials of heterogeneous study designs have made it difficult to extrapolate findings to develop data-driven, evidence-based recommendations for protein supplementation in sarcopenia prevention. Short-term randomized controlled trials of muscle protein synthesis have demonstrated that whey protein increases synthesis more so than casein or soy isolates. Studies also suggest that essential amino acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a greater extent than nonessential amino acids. This review summarizes the epidemiological and clinical trial evidence establishing the current definitions for sarcopenia and provides an overview of the state of the evidence for protein supplementation to prevent and/or mitigate sarcopenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)684-690
Number of pages7
JournalNutrition in Clinical Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • aging
  • amino acids
  • diet
  • muscle atrophy
  • proteins
  • sarcopenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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