Study: U.S. Adults Over Age 50 Not Eating Enough Protein

New health and nutrition data reveals a protein gap in the diets of adults in the U.S. Here's why it's important.

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We all know that muscles look good, but did you know they help keep us healthy, active and energized? And the best way to keep them in shape are regular exercise and sufficient protein intake.

But recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from researchers at Abbott and the Ohio State University found that more than 1 in 3 of adults over 50 years old are not getting the daily recommended amount of protein they need.

Protein as Prevention

Protein is a part of every cell in your body. It's used to build hormones, enzymes, blood and antibodies, as well as skin, bones and muscles.

As you age, protein becomes even more important. Around age 40, people may lose muscle mass at a rate of up to 8 percent each decade. Later in life, those losses accelerate — by age 70 muscle mass can decline by upwards of 15 percent every 10 years.

That may explain why close to 50 percent of older adults have an advanced form of muscle loss, called sarcopenia, that can decrease their strength and mobility while increasing their chances of illness and falling.

"Muscles have a profound effect on our health affecting everything from mobility, balance, posture, and even strength and energy," says Jacqueline Boff, Ph.D., M.B.A., research scientist. "The good news is you can slow age-related muscle loss by getting the right amount and the right kinds of protein along with exercise to rebuild muscle," says Boff.


Getting the Protein You Need

Current recommendations suggest the average healthy adult eat 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per day for every pound they weigh. That's about 56 grams for men and 46 for women.

But some experts recommend getting almost twice that amount as you age, especially if you're recovering from surgery, battling an illness or are malnourished.

"As people get older, their bodies begin to slow down their ability to break down foods and absorb nutrients," says Boff. " That's why making sure adults are eating regular meals with 25-30 grams of protein and that are well-balanced can make a big impact on living a healthier, more active life."

Plan Protein-Packed Snacks and Meals

According to the NHANES study, about 60 percent of adults who did not meet the recommended amount of protein daily reported skipping at least one meal.

One way to ensure you're getting enough protein is to incorporate a carefully planned healthy snack, like a Ensure® Max Protein drink, into your day. It's a quick and simple way to eat right, especially when you're on the go or don't have time for a full meal.


If you're looking for more than a snack, here are a few easy, delicious tips for working additional high-quality protein into your daily diet:


  • Fruit and Nut Cup: 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with 1 cup sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (27 grams protein)

  • Protein Smoothie: Blend a Ensure Max Protein drink with 1 frozen sliced banana (31 grams protein)

  • Blueberry Vanilla Oatmeal: Stir 1 scoop Ensure Original Vanilla Nutrition Powder and ½ cup blueberries into 1 cup cooked oatmeal (10 grams protein)



  • Turkey Chili with Cornbread Topping (25 grams protein)

  • Italian Classic: 1 cup spaghetti with ½ cup marinara sauce and 3 meatballs (25 grams protein)

  • Salmon Special: 4 ounces broiled salmon with ½ cup cooked brown rice and ½ cup sautéed spinach (32 grams protein)

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Protein is an important nutrient used by the body for building, repairing and maintaining tissues.