Elderly at risk from protein-free diet says scientist

A university professor is warning that there are greater dangers for the elderly when cutting down on protein in their diets.

University of Surrey’s Professor Joe Millward told the Langford Food Conference that the elderly were at greater risk to their health with less protein than children were.

The professor made the comments during a talk on the health implications of reducing animal protein intakes to meet environmental impacts.

He said: “If there is a problem with protein deficiency, then the population group that’s at risk is the elderly not children. And the reason for this is the way in which protein requirements and energy requirements change with age. If you express the protein requirement in relation to the energy requirement, than it’s much lower in children than it is in adults and at its highest in the elderly.”

Professor Millward added that although absolute protein requirements fall with age, the energy requirements fall to a much greater extent. While children get their protein from eating large amounts of relatively low-protein food, such as breast milk, the elderly need to eat small amounts of food to satisfy their low energy needs, which has to be nutrient-dense.

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