Shifting towards plant-based diets: the effects on muscle health later in life

Consuming more sustainable, plant-based foods is highly encouraged due to its positive effects on health and the environment, but are we ready to recommend plant-based diets in older adults?

A major cause of global environmental change is food production, with animal based food products having the greatest impact on the environment. Consumers are increasingly encouraged to consume more plant-based foods and lower their consumption of foods from animal origin. However, plant-based foods are currently considered to be inferior to animal-based foods in their protein quality.

Sufficient intake of high quality dietary protein is essential for muscle health, particularly in older adults who frequently experience a reduction in muscle mass and function. A diet fully consisting of plant-based foods (vegan diet) may be suboptimal for muscle health in older adults. Concurrently, the loss of muscle health within the rapidly growing ageing population is an emerging public health concern. Therefore, research addressing the impact of such a protein transition on muscle health in older adults is urgently needed.

This project aims to evaluate the effects of vegan meals and diets on muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical functioning in older adults by performing dietary intervention studies. In this way, we aim to underpin envisaged shifts in the dietary guidelines for older adults taking into account both health and sustainability.

The project is part of the Regio Deal Foodvalley, track 2: “Healthy nutrition, from early start to the old day”.