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Studies indicate health benefits from animal products

March 14, 2014

As National Nutrition Month continues to place heavy emphasis on Americans' diets, several recently released studies have discovered what sorts of foods are most likely to contribute to a healthy lifestyle for seniors. While diets rich with vegetables and fruits reap rewards for all ages, scientists have found that eating animal products - such as meat and dairy - may be a staple ingredient for improving the health of older adults. 

Diet high in protein may prevent health detriments in senior men
Regularly consuming animal products may play a key role in preventing mental, physical and social decline, says a new study released by the American Geriatrics Society. Published in the organization's journal, the research indicated that since seniors lose part of their capacity to absorb protein as they grow older, eating more of these products would help to ensure they are getting the proper nutrients. Scientists examined the diets of more than 1,000 individuals over the course of seven years, and found that men who consumed high amounts of animal products had a 39 percent decreased chance of developing functional impairments.

Although researchers could not discern a similar connection between women's health and protein intake, they believe these products are essential for older adults of both sexes. Dr. Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi, lead researcher and member of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan, said in a press release that understanding which foods would help seniors to perform better was essential.

"Identifying nutritional factors that contribute to maintaining higher-level functional capacity is important for prevention of future deterioration of activities of daily living," Tsubota-Utsugi said. "Along with other modifiable health behaviors, a diet rich in protein may help older adults maintain their functional capacity."

Eating animal products may elongate senior life expectancy
Researchers at the University of Southern California recently published a study indicating that diets that are too high in meat and dairy may be detrimental to one's health, stating that high consumption of these products can lead to cancer and death in middle-aged adults. However, scientists explain that the results alter after the age of 65, stressing that seniors who eat lots of protein are more likely to live longer and experience greater overall health. Eileen Crimmins, co-author of the study and AARP Chair in Gerontology at USC, said in a university press release that the results could be attributed to how bodies change the way they break down nutrients as people age.

"The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality, through a process that involves regulating IGF-I and possibly insulin levels," Crimmins said. "However, we also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid a low-protein diet to allow the maintenance of healthy weight and protection from frailty."