Surprise! Eating Meat May Slow Aging

Vegetarians may live longer on average, but a new study suggests that eating more animal protein preserves physical and mental function as you age. 

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

recent study out of Japan found that elderly men who ate the most animal protein showed the least physical and cognitive decline compared to those who ate the least. This will probably confuse a lot of folks, because we’ve heard almost nothing but bad news about meat lately - in particular, how high intake of meat throughout life is linked to decreased lifespan.

See also: Is Red Meat Really Bad For You?


Although many plant foods contain protein, animal foods are by far the most concentrated and bioavailable sources of protein. It could be that older men who eat more animal protein—which, includes fish and eggs as well as chicken and beefare much more likely to meet their protein requirements than those who are relying on vegetable sources.

See also: Despite High Protein Diet Craze, Seniors Likely to Be Deficient


How Protein Delays Aging

We need more protein to offset the age-related loss of muscle tissue. Losing muscle mass as we age is a big deal because when we lose muscle mass, we tend to lose bone mass as well, initiating a whole downward spiral of increased frailty and diminished function.  

See also: Nutrition Tips for Healthy Aging and What is Osteoporosis?


How Much Protein Do You Need as You Age?

Keeping your protein intake up as you age is a good hedge against aging and disability. Aim for between 60g to 80g of protein per day and try to get at least half of that from animal sources. (If you have reduced kidney function, you need to check in with your health care professional to be sure your kidneys are up for the job.)

See also: Nutrition Diva's Protein Cheat Sheet

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.