Can Plant-Based Foods Help Seniors Get Their Necessary Proteins?

Monday, February 21st, 2022

Older adults who require more proteins sometimes struggle to get an appropriate amount in their diets. The answer to this problem may lie in the most unsuspecting of places.

How much protein do you need to be healthy? The answer depends on your age. Older adults require more – and getting it can sometimes pose a challenge.

But a study showed that NUTRALYS® pea protein can help.

According to Euromonitor, Asia Pacific is at the forefront of the global population aging phenomenon, with its older population expanding fast on the back of falling birth rates and rising life expectancy. By 2040, the region will be home to 757 million people aged 65 and over – accounting for more than half the world’s total older population. 

“When it comes to aging, older consumers desire to hold back time and fear a loss of mobility and independence,” says Anne-Sophie Vercruysse, Global Market Manager for Plant Proteins at Roquette. “They want convenient and tasty food products that help them maintain or improve their health conditions,” Vercruyss adds.

It is important to note that protein needs for seniors are different. Most healthy adults must consume 0.83 grams of protein for every kilogramme of body weight – a daily target many of us easily exceed. But seniors require more protein – between one gram and 1.2 grams each day for every kilogramme of body weight – in order to maintain good health. And as we age, hitting that nutrition target can become a challenge.

“For elderly people, it’s not always easy to eat that much protein. They may have challenges with mastication. For example, they may not enjoy chewing a big piece of meat,” Laetitia Guérin-Deremaux adds, Head of Nutrition and Health R&D at Roquette says. 

Alternative products like yoghurt can help. But diet is about variety – and the more high-protein options that are available to seniors, the easier it will be for them to meet nutritional goals.

“To fight against their malnutrition, the first focus is on delivering adequate nutritional support. But food is also a source of joy. Adapting the taste and texture of protein-rich foods to the preference of consumers with altered sensory sensations can play a key role in increasing their food intake,” Vercruysse adds.

Thus, Roquette scientists wanted to find out if NUTRALYS® and new plant-based gastronomy could be one of the solutions.

Letting The Appetite Decide

Offering protein-rich foods would mean nothing if those foods weren’t also tasty. So Guérin-Deremaux’s team set out to design a study that would test how likely seniors were to freely choose a NUTRALYS® plant protein-enriched treat over time.

They partnered with CEN Nutriment, a research firm in France, to offer protein-enriched food to seniors between the ages of 70 and 90 who lived in nursing homes. Every other day for 21 days, those seniors who volunteered were served an apple compote enriched with NUTRALYS® protein as part of their lunchtime meal providing 6.4 g of protein. Volunteers were free to consume as little or as much as they wished. Researchers measured how much was consumed each day, and volunteers completed surveys about once a week to indicate whether they liked the food.

“One hope was to challenge the perception many have that pea protein can have a specific taste,” Guérin-Deremaux says. If the volunteers ate it consistently for three weeks, her team would have evidence that seniors enjoyed the product enough to choose it regularly. It would also demonstrate that it could be an option in helping them eat healthier meals in the long term.

A Consistent Choice

That is just what the three-week study showed. After the first meal, more than 90 percent of those seniors surveyed described the NUTRALYS® compote as “rather pleasant” or “very pleasant.” In follow-up surveys over the next 21 days, about 80 percent continued to give the treat that high evaluation. 

The portions they consumed were key as well. Each volunteer was offered a 125 g serving of the compote, Guérin-Deremaux says. Most of the time, they ate about 80 percent of the serving offered.

That’s a healthy, easy-to-eat portion of protein these ageing adults might not have had in their diets otherwise. Seniors then have an added viable and tastier option when they are looking to increase the amount of protein they consume.


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