Protein for Life: Towards a Focused Dietary Framework for Healthy Aging

Professor Emma Stevenson, Human Nutrition Research Centre, Newcastle University

How do we maintain a healthy protein intake in an ageing population? That is the key question which the Protein for Life project seeks to address.

Auto Draft 12Professor Emma Stevenson speaking at Food Matters Live on 19-20 November 2018 explained that approximately 60% of healthy older adults are not aware of the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein and have a poor understanding of the health benefits of protein. They see the amount of fat, carbohydrates and sugars in foods as more important. As well as the quantity of protein consumed Professor Stevenson emphasised the importance of the quality and distribution of protein over the day along with Physical Activity, in particular resistance training, for maintaining muscle mass.

Auto Draft 13

One third of adults over 50 years consume less than protein intake recommendations

Therefore the first stage of the Protein for Life project involved creating a profile of the type, quantity, quality and timing of protein intake for 3 key age groups:

  • 40-54 years
  • 55-69 years
  • 70 plus years

Three different data sources were used to create a profile of protein intake in older adults:

  1. National Diet and Nutrition survey data (NDNS)
  2. Consumer loyalty data from 3 leading supermarkets
  3. Food diary analysis from two different projects at the University of Sheffield.

Overall the findings showed that protein distribution was skewed towards the evening meal and there were opportunities to increase protein intake at breakfast and via snacking. The role of palatable, cost effective, sustainable sources of protein are high on the agenda for older adults. The Protein for Life project has established collaborations with a number of industry stakeholders to explore consumer acceptability of higher protein foods, especially amongst the 70 plus age group.

The value of particular nutrients changes at different stages of the lifecycle. Professor Stevenson concluded by saying that protein intake in older adults needs to be addressed and education on the benefits of protein intake in ageing is key. The Protein for Life project aims to promote 2 key messages that ‘a little bit of physical activity along with a little bit of protein is good for healthy ageing’.

For further information visit


  1. Lonnie M, Hooker E, Brunstrom JM, Corfe BM, Green MA, Watson AW, Williams EA, Stevenson EJ, Penson S, Johnstone AM. Protein for life: Review of optimal protein intake, sustainable dietary sources and the effect on appetite in ageing adults. Nutrients 2018, 10(3): 360.
  2. National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 7-8 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2014/15 – 2015/16).

To access the full report click here