Determining the Influence of Habitual Dietary Protein Intake on Physiological Muscle Parameters in Youth and Older Age

Sophie L. Mathewson, Adam L. Gordon, Kenneth Smith, Philip J. Atherton, Carolyn A. Greig, Bethan E. Phillips

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Protein ingestion is a potent stimulator of skeletal muscle protein synthesis (MPS). However, older adults demonstrate resistance to anabolic stimuli. Some evidence has demonstrated that a larger acute protein dose is required in older compared to younger adults to elicit the same synthetic response, suggesting that older adults should be consuming higher habitual dietary protein to optimise muscle mass. However, limited research has explored dietary habits in different age groups or the relationship between habitual dietary intake and mechanistic physiological parameters associated with muscle mass and function. This work investigated the effect of habitual dietary intake in young (n = 10, 25.9 (3.2y)) and older (n = 16, 70.2 (3.2y)) community-dwelling adults (16:10 male: female) on physiological muscle parameters. Dietary intake was assessed using four-day diet diaries. Post-absorptive MPS and MPS responses to feeding (4.25x basal metabolic rate; 16% protein) were determined in muscle biopsies of the m. vastus lateralis via stable isotope tracer ([1, 2−13C2]-leucine) infusions with mass-spectrometric analyses. Body composition was measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Whole body strength was assessed via 1-repetition maximum assessments. No significant differences in habitual dietary intake (protein, fat, carbohydrate and leucine as g.kgWBLM−−1) were observed between age groups. Whole-body lean mass (61.8 ± 9.9 vs. 49.8 ± 11.9 kg, p = 0.01) and knee-extensor strength (87.7 ± 28.3 vs. 56.8 ± 16.4 kg, p = 0.002) were significantly higher in young adults. Habitual protein intake (−−1) was not associated with whole-body lean mass, upper-leg lean mass, whole-body strength, knee-extensor strength, basal MPS or fed-state MPS across both age groups. These findings suggest that differences in muscle mass and strength parameters between youth and older age are not explained by differences in habitual dietary protein intake. Further research with a larger sample size is needed to fully explore these relationships and inform on interventions to mitigate sarcopenia development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3560
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2021


  • muscle protein synthesis
  • ageing
  • dietary protein
  • sarcopenia


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