Red meat improves health of elderly, says research

Research carried out by Deakin University, Australia, said that eating red meat three to four times a week could be key to keeping body and mind in peak condition as we age.

The study explained that a programme of red meat and exercise reduced the impact of age-related muscle loss in the elderly. It has now been extended to further cover mental capacity, and expects to show that red meat also has a positive impact on brain and nervous system function. The research is a real positive as the world looks to deal with the impact of an ageing population.

Deakins professor of exercise and ageing Robin Daly said: Given the results of this study, we believe that eating the recommended three to four servings of lean red meat a week combined with a strength training program could well be the key to keeping our body and mind in peak condition.

It is no secret that we are living longer and that this is placing an increased burden on society in many ways, including the healthcare system.

This protein/exercise combination could provide the greatest benefits in terms of ensuring that older adults can live independently and relatively disease- and disability-free into old age.

The study compared the effects on women aged 60-90 of a protein-rich, lean red meat diet and a resistance training programme, compared with those on an exercise-only programme. The women on the meat diet displayed greater muscle strength and mass, as well as an increase in a hormone central to muscle growth and a reduction in a pro-inflammatory marker that has been linked to muscle loss and other chronic diseases.

Daly added that protein stimulates the growth of the hormone serum IGF-1, which assists the growth and function of brain cells.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietitian and advisor to the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP), said: We are living in an ageing society and it is important that we learn how to look after ourselves, so we can enjoy a good quality of life as we grow older. This includes the food we eat and the right type of exercises to help keep our muscles strong.

This study is now being extended to look at the impact that increased dietary protein, combined with strength training, also has on the mental health and wellbeing of older people and I look forward to seeing the findings.

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