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Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(6):1375-1383. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.160325. Epub 2017 Nov 1.

The effects of dietary protein intake on appendicular lean mass and muscle function in elderly men: a 10-wk randomized controlled trial.

Author information

Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Food Nutrition & Health Team, Food.
Riddet Institute, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark; and.
Department of Nutritional Sciences and Research Platform Active Ageing, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand;
Bio-based Products Group, AgResearch, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Background: The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein intake in the adult population is widely promoted as 0.8 g · kg-1 · d-1 Aging may increase protein requirements, particularly to maintain muscle mass.Objective: We investigated whether controlled protein consumption at the current RDA or twice the RDA (2RDA) affects skeletal muscle mass and physical function in elderly men.Design: In this parallel-group randomized trial, 29 men aged >70 y [mean ± SD body mass index (in kg/m2): 28.3 ± 4.2] were provided with a complete diet containing either 0.8 (RDA) or 1.6 (2RDA) g protein · kg-1 · d-1, aimed to balance energy needs. Before treatment and after 10 wk of intervention, whole-body and appendicular lean mass were measured by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Knee-extension peak power was measured with dynamometry.Results: Both groups were found to have been in a moderate negative energy balance (mean ± SD RDA: 209 ± 213 kcal/d; 2RDA 145 ± 214 kcal/d; P= 0.427 for difference between the groups). In comparison with RDA, whole-body lean mass increased in 2RDA (P = 0.001; 1.49 ± 1.30 kg, P < 0.001 compared with -0.55 ± 1.49 kg, P = 0.149). This difference was mostly accounted for by an increase in trunk lean mass found in 2RDA (+1.39 ± 1.09 kg, P < 0.001). Appendicular lean mass also decreased in RDA compared with 2RDA (P = 0.022), driven by a reduction in RDA (-0.64 ± 0.91 kg, P = 0.005 compared with 0.11 ± 0.57 kg, P = 0.592). Adjusting for energy imbalances did not alter these findings. Knee-extension peak power was also differently affected (P = 0.012; 26.6 ± 47.7 W, P = 0.015 in 2RDA compared with -11.7 ± 31.0 W, P = 0.180 in RDA).Conclusions: Consumption of a diet providing 2RDA for protein compared with the current guidelines was found to have beneficial effects on lean body mass and leg power in elderly men. These effects were not explained by differences in energy balance. This trial was registered at the Australia New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry ( as ACTRN12616000310460.


dietary protein; nutrient requirements; older adults; skeletal muscle; whole foods

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