May 1, 2010

Protein A Critical Component Of Overall Health

Research presented at Experimental Biology 2010 evaluates dietary protein needs and the role of protein in weight loss and muscle maintenance

The importance of high-quality protein foods in overall health was among the topics discussed this week at Experimental Biology 2010 in Anaheim, Calif. Researchers from a variety of institutions discussed studies that looked at varying levels of dietary protein intake to promote health throughout life including the role of protein in weight loss and muscle maintenance.

Dietary Protein for Overall Health

A panel discussion including leading protein researcher Don Layman, Ph.D., examined the research debate regarding favorable dietary protein needs for Americans. Layman, who is a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Director of Research at the Egg Nutrition Center, presented an analysis of studies on weight loss and optimal dietary protein intake for adults.(1)

"A common myth is that adults are eating more protein than they need, but in actuality many individuals may not be meeting their protein needs, especially when they are consuming a lower-calorie diet as part of a weight loss plan," says Dr. Layman. "Another big problem is that the typical American diet generally does not include enough protein at breakfast."

The importance of high-quality protein at the breakfast meal is supported by a growing body of evidence. Research shows that dietary protein intakes above the current recommendations are beneficial in maintaining muscle function and may help manage diseases such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In fact, researchers recommend that adults consume 25-30 grams of protein at each meal.(2) Another recent study also shows that eating a protein-rich egg breakfast helped males manage hunger and reduce calorie consumption throughout the day by 18 percent.(3)

High-Quality Protein for Muscle Maintenance in Aging

In a separate symposium sponsored by the Egg Nutrition Center, experts from the National Institutes of Health, the University of Georgia and the University of Texas examined the latest research related to nutrition and aging adults. One topic of discussion was the condition known as sarcopenia, which is the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function with aging. The expert panelists identified protein intake as a critical intervention strategy for the treatment and prevention of sarcopenia in the aging population.(4)

"The topics discussed in this session relay important information for healthcare professionals and consumers because research shows that consuming high-quality protein can help prevent or slow the loss of muscle," says Mitch Kanter, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Egg Nutrition Center. "Eggs are an ideal high-quality protein food to help adults meet protein needs throughout the day, starting with breakfast."

Additional supporting research underscores the importance of protein for the aging population. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that older men and women who ate the most protein-rich foods lost approximately 40 percent less muscle mass over three years compared to those who ate the least amount of protein.(5) And a review article published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care encourages clinicians to advise older patients to consume 25-30 grams of high-quality protein per meal in order to prevent or slow down sarcopenic muscle loss.(6)


1. Heber D, Evans W, Layman D, Li Z. "Controversy: Weight Management: How much protein is enough?" PowerPoint presentation at Experimental Biology. April 27, 2010. Experimental Biology, Anaheim, CA.

2. Layman D. Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutrition & Metabolism 2009, 6:12.

3. Ratliff J, Leite J, de Ogburn R, Puglisi M, Van Heest J, Fernandez M. Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research 2010; 30, 96-103.

4. Dwyer, J, Johnson, MA, Reed PS, Volpi G, Miller J, Jensen G. "Aging 2010: Challenges and new opportunities for clinical nutrition interventions in the aged."PowerPoint presentation at Experimental Biology. April 24, 2010. Experimental Biology, Anaheim, CA.

5. Houston DK, Nicklas B, Ding J, Harris TB, Tylavsky FA, Newman AB, Lee JS, Sahyoun NR, Visser M, Kritchevsky SB. Dietary protein intake is associated with lean mass change in older, community-dwelling adults: the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87;150-155.

6. Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opinion Clin Nutr Metab Care 2009, 12:86-90.


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