Protein Intake and Distribution in Relation to Physical Functioning and Quality of Life in Community-Dwelling Elderly People: Acknowledging the Role of Physical Activity

Haaf, Dominique ten; Dongen, E.J.I. van; Nuijten, M.; Eijsvogels, Thijs; Groot, C.P.G.M. de; Hopman, Maria


Increasing total protein intake and a spread protein intake distribution are potential strategies to attenuate sarcopenia related loss of physical function and quality of life. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate whether protein intake and protein intake distribution are associated with muscle strength, physical function and quality of life in community-dwelling elderly people with a wide range of physical activity. Dietary and physical activity data were obtained from two studies (N = 140, age 81 ± 6, 64% male), with the following outcome measures: physical functioning (Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), comprising balance, gait speed and chair rise tests), handgrip strength and quality of life (EQ-5D-5L). Protein intake distribution was calculated for each participant as a coefficient of variance (CV = SD of grams of protein intake per main meal divided by the average total amount of proteins (grams) of the main meals). Based on the CV, participants were divided into tertiles and classified as spread, intermediate or pulse. The average total protein intake was 1.08 ± 0.29 g/kg/day. Total protein intake was not associated with outcome measures using multivariate regression analyses. Individuals with a spread protein diet during the main meals (CV < 0.43) had higher gait speed compared to those with an intermediate diet (CV 0.43–0.62) (β = −0.42, p = 0.035), whereas a spread and pulse protein diet were not associated with SPPB total score, chair rise, grip strength and Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY). The interaction of higher physical activity and higher total protein intake was significantly associated with higher quality of life (β = 0.71, p = 0.049). While this interaction was not associated with SPPB or grip strength, the association with quality of life emphasizes the need for a higher total protein intake together with an active lifestyle in the elderly.