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Animal Protein Linked With Better Functioning in Men Later in Life

As we age, it becomes harder for our bodies to process protein. A new study from Japan suggests that it may be important for mature adults to consume a diet high in animal protein in order to maintain optimal physical, psychological, and social functioning.

Participants in the study included 1,007 adults with an average age of 67.4. All were asked to complete food frequency questionnaires at the beginning of the study and then seven years later. The researchers then split them into four groups based on the amount of total, animal, and plant protein they consumed.

All of the participants also underwent higher-level functional capacity tests that examined social, intellectual, and daily living aspects.

24.4% of the participants reported declines in higher-level functional capacity during the study period. The researchers found that the men in the highest quartile of animal protein intake had 39% decreased odds of higher-level functional decline than those in the lowest quartile.

There was no observed association between animal protein intake and functional decline in women and no consistent association between plant protein intake and functional decline in either sex.

Researchers from the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on February 27, 2014, in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Protein functions as a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It is also a building block for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins. To get the optimal benefit from protein, it’s important to choose the right type. Some good sources of animal protein include fish, poultry, and lean meat.

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