The world population is aging more and more. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the percentage of over sixty-year-olds should rise from 12% to 22% by 2050. With a carefully selected diet supplementing sport and exercise, it is possible, however, to keep the negative aspects of ‘aging.
The Italian researcher Claudio Franceschi has been studying the methods for active aging without major disturbances for some time. Franceschi also coordinated “NU-AGE”, a 12 million euro European project that dealt with studying the right diet for healthy aging. NU-AGE’s main finding was that the Mediterranean diet reduces one of the causes of aging described by Franceschi in 2000: latent chronic inflammation. Those who follow the Mediterranean diet also show a lower incidence of virtually all diseases associated with modern civilization, from diabetes and heart disease, from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s disease. In short, the Mediterranean diet keeps you healthy.
BASIC DIET PLUS “FOOD FOR MUSCLES”
The Mediterranean diet is undoubtedly a very smart basic diet. For athletes, however, the question arises whether, on its own, it is sufficient or if it is instead necessary to integrate it with other foods to age without too many ailments while remaining as efficient as possible.
The main reason for reflection is that a necessary requirement for getting old while remaining independent (and continuing to play sports) is to have functional muscles. In addition to the regular training stimulus, an optimized protein intake is required for this, but this should not only begin at an older age. Researchers are still debating the exact time when sarcopenia begins – the progressive decline in muscle mass. In fact, the first symptoms are observed from the age of 40, but it is agreed that it certainly begins at 50. However, there is a gap in the specific dietary recommendations for old age, which are only available for those over 60 or 65. And it’s not exactly ideal for the younger age groups.
PROTEINS ARE BECOMING MORE IMPORTANT
Protein is essential for keeping muscles efficient and protein requirements increase with age. Currently, however, there is debate on the negative impact of meat and milk production on the climate, so the discussion on proteins has become sensitive. Vegetable proteins could be considered equivalent to animal proteins, but from a scientific point of view, this reasoning would not be “clean”. Considering the lower digestibility, lower essential amino acid content and higher non-protein content of plant foods, up to double the amount of plant protein should be taken to have the same effect as a protein of animal origin.
However, by increasing the degree of processing of a vegetable, for example for the production of a protein isolate, and with a targeted combination of different vegetable proteins, its effectiveness can be significantly improved. But the evaluation of such blends is complex and each protein blend should be analyzed individually, which is far from easy.
To keep muscles healthy, both in sports and in general from the age of 50, about 1.5 grams of high-quality protein per kilo of body mass per day are needed. The 0.8 grams often mentioned in official recommendations are not enough. They have in fact been established as a minimum quantity without considering the optimal function of muscles or other proteins in the body. From the age of 50, about 30 grams of protein is needed per meal. A 60-pound woman can then spread the 90 grams of protein over three meals of 30 grams of protein each. If you weigh more and need more protein, you can spread the remaining protein into snacks or increase the protein content of the meal.
MEDITERRANEAN DIET MORE PROTEIN
From the age of 50, it is important to control weight due to possible sarcopenia, a first step to ensure healthy aging. It is therefore advisable to take a look at the scale on a weekly basis. If you prefer to get your protein only from plant sources, you should double the recommended amounts. In this way, however, the volume of food needed increases rapidly, while with proteins of animal origin the quantities remain more manageable. A fair amount of calcium is also added with milk proteins, a pleasant side effect for the bones.
The conclusion for all “50 and +” athletes: a Mediterranean diet rich in proteins is the one to prefer. In this way, it becomes possible to age without suffering from latent chronic inflammation and helping the muscles to function well.