Protein in Older Adults

It is no secret that the American population is getting older. Currently, 1 in 8 adults are considered older, which is age 65 and up.1 The RDA for protein is 0.8 g/kg/day, which allows for an acceptable macronutrient distribution range of 10%-35%.2  Protein is essential for any diet and is important for healing, immunity, and overall health.

older adult

Why is protein important for older adults?

A decreased protein intake in older adults may lead to an increased chance of developing sarcopenia, decreased lean muscle mass, and decreased healing rates.3 These issues may be problematic for people starting around age 50 and increase in severity as we age. It is important for older adults to remain active and building and maintaining muscle mass is vital.

To help keep protein intake high and consistent in our aging population we want to ensure adequate intake and focus on the quality of protein being consumed. Meats, fish, eggs, cheese, and yogurt are all sources of high biological protein and should be encouraged to be part of any older adult’s diet. Foods like legumes, grains, vegetables, and seeds all contain protein in lesser amounts, but are still encouraged to be part of the diet.

Many older adults have high cholesterol and often times are concerned about consuming too much cholesterol from their diet. For example, eggs have always been made out to be a food that could raise cholesterol and for that reason should be avoided. However, since 2000 the American Heart Association has began incorporating eggs into a heart healthy diet, but there is still a recommendation of keeping your cholesterol intake below 300mg per day.5 Eggs are a great source of protein and are easy to eat and should not be excluded from any diet, especially an older adults.

Snacking throughout the day is a common habit. Protein is encouraged in every snack and meal. Below is a list of protein-rich snacks that can be easy and affordable.

protein graph

Tips for increasing protein intake in older adults:

  • Eat eggs for breakfast since they can be prepared in so many ways and are easy to chew!
  • Add beans to your favorite salad or soup
  • Try to include protein in every snack or meal
  • Drink protein packed drinks like Boost or Ensure
  • Add a nut spread to your toast or oatmeal in the morning

To learn more, please contact a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist on the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website by clicking Find a RD.

Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,

Andrea Rice


  1. Palmer, S., Beasley, J., The Protein Needs of Older Adults, Published on Jun 12, 2013
  2. Rodriguez, N. R., & Miller, S. L. (2015). Effective translation of current dietary guidance: Understanding and communicating the concepts of minimal and optimal levels of dietary protein. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1S-6S.
  3. Morley, J. E., Anker, S. D., & von Haehling, S. (2014). Prevalence, incidence, and clinical impact of sarcopenia: facts, numbers, and epidemiology—update 2014. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 5(4), 253–259.
  4. Webb, D. (2015, June). High-Protein Snacking. Retrieved March 29, 2015, from
  5. Gray, J., & Griffin, B. (2009). Eggs and dietary cholesterol – dispelling the myth. Nutrition Bulletin, 34(1), 66-70 5p.


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2 Responses to Protein in Older Adults

  1. Sue Linja says:

    Great blog! Thank you.


  2. Robyn Velander says:

    Nice blog! Yes, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg body weight per day, regardless of age, sex or health status. But, a recently published research article now shows that aging adults require more protein, due in part to a decline in the muscle’s ability to synthesize protein efficiently. In addition, higher protein intakes are needed to offset catabolic conditions associated with chronic diseases. In the study, only the elderly participants who consumed 2x the RDA had positive protein synthesis.

    Young K, et al. Quantity of dietary protein intake, but not pattern of intake, affects net protein balance primarily through differences in protein synthesis in older adults. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014;308:E21-E28.


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