Nav: Home

Despite America's protein craze, adults are still missing the mark according to new study

February 20, 2019

  • Research reveals more than 1 in 3 Americans 50+ aren't meeting the recommended protein intake and it's saying a lot about their diets and health
  • Timing matters - eating protein evenly throughout the day, and even before bedtime, can support muscles for optimal health
ABBOTT PARK, Ill., February 20, 2019 -- Walk into any grocery store and you'll find high-protein products dominating shelf space throughout the aisles. The benefits of protein are well established, and it's widely recognized as a key nutrient to a healthy, active lifestyle. However, despite its popularity, a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, shows that more than 1 in 3 adults 50-plus are missing the mark on protein, and it's saying a lot about their overall diet and health.1

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from The Ohio State University and Abbott evaluated protein intake in relation to diet patterns and functional outcomes in 11,680 adults aged 51 and older. The analysis revealed that protein consumption is a strong indicator of adults' overall diet, nutrition and physical well-being:
  • Shortcutting protein is hurting your diet: Adults who weren't getting enough protein had overall poorer quality diets - they ate less healthy foods like greens, beans, dairy and seafood, and weren't consuming enough of other important vitamins and minerals like choline, vitamin C, zinc and vitamin D.
  • Meal skipping may be part of the problem: More than 40 percent of adults who did not meet the protein recommendation ate fewer than three meals per day.
  • Adults are majorly missing the mark: Of those not meeting their protein intake, one third were up to 30 grams of protein short per day. For a 160-pound healthy adult, who needs at least 58 grams of protein a day, this is more than half of their daily needs.2
  • Protein signals strength and energy: Those not meeting the protein recommendation were more likely to encounter physical limitations, such as sitting for long periods or getting into or out of bed.
''Despite the protein craze in America, the data shows there's still a big gap in adults' protein intake,'' said Christopher A. Taylor, Ph.D., R.D., associate professor at The Ohio State University and study author. ''Not only were they significantly lacking, but this research was looking at intake against current dietary recommendations, which don't take into consideration activity, age and illness, when adults may need even more protein.''


Getting the right amount of protein daily is critical, but when and how often it's consumed also has a major impact on health. Research shows the benefits of spacing protein intake throughout the day. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that spreading protein more evenly across three meals a day can help adults increase muscle strength.3 Studies also suggest that before bed snacking may not be a bad habit if it includes protein.4 A study published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded a pre-bedtime snack with 40 grams of protein had a positive effect on muscle health in older men.5

''The power of protein is sometimes underestimated,'' said Abby Sauer, M.P.H., R.D., registered dietitian at Abbott and healthy aging expert. ''As the building blocks of our muscles, protein plays a role in every aspect of our lives - from providing energy to run 5 km, to giving us strength to get out of a hospital bed. There are simple steps adults can take - like including protein at each meal - that will have a long-lasting impact on overall health.''

Luckily, eating enough protein at the right times and getting regular exercise, can help preserve muscle strength and function.3 While experts agree that adults need more protein as they age6, upping your protein doesn't have to be hard:
  • Add protein-toppers to meals: Spread hummus on your turkey sandwich, add diced chicken to your pasta or toss beans into your salad.
  • Snack on protein: Instead of reaching for a handful of pretzels, opt for a protein option like nuts, Greek yogurt or string cheese.
  • Scrutinize your plate: Make sure you are including protein foods, like chicken, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans or dairy, and aim for about 25-30 grams per meal. For example, 30 grams of protein equals a cup of turkey chili topped with shredded cheese and a whole wheat roll.
  • Incorporate nutrition drinks: Protein shakes, such as Abbott's Ensure Max Protein, are a great option for adults who aren't able to get enough protein through food or need an easy, on-the-go option.
  • Amp up intake if you're 65+: Some adults may need up to two times more protein than younger adults,4 so add in protein snacks, like one before bed or supplement your diet if needed.
To learn more about protein and for additional tips for increasing your daily intake, visit Abbott's Nutrition Newsroom.

About the Study

Low Dietary Protein Intakes and Associated Dietary Patterns and Functional Limitations in an Aging Population: a NHANES Analysis was published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. The aim of the study was to investigate protein intake in relation to dietary patterns and functional outcomes in older Americans. Data from the 2005-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) was used to look at 11,680 adults. Adults were classified as either meeting or not meeting the protein recommendation based on the recommended daily allowance (0.8 g/kg/d) to compare demographics, diet quality with Healthy Eating Index-2015, functional limitations and other dietary intakes.

About Abbott

Abbott is a global healthcare leader that helps people live more fully at all stages of life. Our portfolio of life-changing technologies spans the spectrum of healthcare, with leading businesses and products in diagnostics, medical devices, nutritionals and branded generic medicines. Our 103,000 colleagues serve people in more than 160 countries.

Connect with us at, on LinkedIn at, on Facebook at and on Twitter @AbbottNews and @AbbottGlobal.

1 Krok-Schoen JL, et al. J Nutr Health Aging. 2019; e-pub ahead of print.
2 Otten JJ, et al. DRI, dietary reference intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements. 2006
3 Farsijani S, et al. Am J Clin Nutr.2017;106(1):113-124.
4 Kerksick CM, et al. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2017;14:33.
5 Kouw IW, et al. J Nutr.2017;147(12):2252-2261.
6 Deutz NE, et al. Clin Nutr. 2014;33(6):929-36.


Related Nutrition Articles:

Diet, nutrition have profound effects on gut microbiome
A new literature review from scientists at George Washington University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggests that nutrition and diet have a profound impact on the microbial composition of the gut.
Are women getting adequate nutrition during preconception and pregnancy?
In a Maternal & Child Nutrition analysis of published studies on the dietary habits of women who were trying to conceive or were pregnant, most studies indicated that women do not meet nutritional recommendations for vegetable, cereal grain, or folate intake.
Supermarkets and child nutrition in Africa
Hunger and undernutrition are widespread problems in Africa. At the same time, overweight, obesity, and related chronic diseases are also on the rise.
Horse nutrition: Prebiotics do more harm than good
Prebiotics are only able to help stabilise the intestinal flora of horses to a limited degree.
New study measures how much of corals' nutrition comes from hunting
When it comes to feeding, corals have a few tricks up their sleeve.
Nutrition programs alone are not enough to support healthy brain development
Caregiving programs are five times more effective than nutrition programs in supporting smarter, not just taller, children in low- and middle-income countries.
Ant farmers boost plant nutrition
Research, led by Dr. Guillaume Chomicki from the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, has demonstrated that millions of years of ant agriculture has remodeled plant physiology.
Featured research findings from Nutrition 2019
Press materials are now available for Nutrition 2019, the flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, to be held June 8-11, 2019 at the Baltimore Convention Center.
Individual nutrition shows benefits in hospital patients
Individualized nutrition not only causes hospital patients to consume more protein and calories, but also improves clinical treatment outcomes.
Study reveals how motivation affects nutrition and diet
New research led by the University of East Anglia suggests that people with a positive attitude are more likely to eat healthily.
More Nutrition News and Nutrition Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at