Diets Rich In Beef Help Aging Individuals Retain Muscle
February 5, 2013

Beef-Rich Diets May Help Elderly Men Maintain Muscle Mass

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A new study by researchers from the Exercise Metabolism Research Group at McMaster University recently found the consumption of higher amounts of beef can help retain muscle mass in older males.

Individuals tend to decrease in muscle mass as they become older, and aging can make it difficult for the body to react to anabolic stimuli such as amino acids and resistance exercise. The research was helpful in determining methods that could help limit or counteract muscle loss due to aging.

The scientists looked at the impact of various quantities of meat consumed by males who did and did not lift weights. The end results of the study showed the optimal quantity of meat consumption for middle-aged men was double the current recommended serving size in Canada.

The findings of the study were recently featured in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

“Canada's Food Guide now suggests that consuming about 3oz (0.80 g/kg/d) of meat per serving is adequate to provide protein at the recommended level,” explained the study´s senior author Dr. Stuart Phillips, who works as a researcher with the Exercise Metabolism Research Group at McMaster University, in a statement. “However, our work shows that the quantity of beef needed to maximize the renewal of new muscle proteins was at least 6oz in middle-aged men. Our findings have clear ramifications for the current recommendations regarding protein to prevent muscle loss in aging.”

The project included 35 middle-aged participants. The outcome of the study showed the consumption of a 6-ounce serving of 85 percent lean ground beef was linked to a significant increase in the rate of muscle protein synthesis after exercise. The researchers tracked the muscle protein synthesis (MPS) necessary for the body´s continued growth, maintenance and repair of skeletal muscle.

While this study highlights the benefits beef, other studies in recent years have pointed to the disadvantages of eating too much red meat. For example, a study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in 2012 showed the consumption of too much red meat was linked to a higher mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease and cancer. The Harvard study also found the substitution of red meat with other healthy protein sources, such as legumes, fish, nuts, and poultry, was related to an overall reduction in mortality rates.

“Our study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies,” noted the lead author of the 2012 study An Pan, who works as a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH, in a statement.

Another study published in the British Medical Journal last year stated decreasing red meat consumption would not only reduce the risk of chronic disease but also decrease the human carbon footprint in the United Kingdom by about 28 million tons per year.

"Health benefits provide near term rewards to individuals for climate friendly changes and may thus 'nudge' humanity towards a sustainable future," remarked the authors in a prepared statement. "Dietary recommendations should no longer be based on direct health effects alone."