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Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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Conjuring protein from thin air

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Mar 19, 2020 in Protein, Technology

It sounds like science fiction, but it’s true: scientists have worked out how to make protein from air – with the help of teeny, microscopic bacteria called hydrogenotrophs.

 

The protein is highly nutritious, free from pesticides or herbicides and sustainable – a welcome solution for feeding a growing population without destructive tree lopping and land clearing.

 

 

Inspired by NASA

 

The founder of “Air Protein” in the US, Lisa Dyson, was inspired by NASA research in the 1960s that investigated how to convert the carbon dioxide breathed out by astronauts into food.

 

The technology was never commercialised, but Dyson and co-founder John Reed saw the potential, and the imperative considering our over-encumbered planet with dwindling resources.

 

The hydrogenotrophs – “nature’s supercharged carbon recyclers” – feed on CO2 and convert it into food with the help of hydrogen from water, synthesising the gas into cellular material.

 

Kiverdi likens it to age-old traditions that use fermentation to make yoghurt, beer and sauerkraut. “Basically you have different microorganisms – use different inputs and you get different outputs,” she explains.

 

A Finnish company, “Solar Foods”, has also cottoned on, producing protein they call “Solein” in a lab outside Helsinki.

 

Making the air protein requires a bioreactor that feeds the microbes with renewable energy or biomass, creating within hours what it can take months for plants to do, independently from climatic conditions and seasons.

 

Compared to soybeans, Dyson estimates the microbes can produce 10,000 times more food per land area using 2,000 times less water.

 

And the protein content – with a full complement of amino acids – is higher, producing 70-80% compared to 30-50%. It also contains vitamin B12, making it an ideal vegan food source.

 

 

From bacteria to market, and beyond

 

The flavourless end product looks like a powder, which can be used as a base for making nutritious protein shakes, pasta, cereals, snacks and “meatless meat” burgers.

 

While Solein is still in the pilot stage, aiming to open a demonstrator plant in 2022, Dyson’s team is currently working on recipe development and a taste profile, planning to announce its products this year.

 

Meanwhile, other creative solutions for nutritious, environmentally friendly protein includes insects – and you don’t have to eat them whole (although some people do); you can eat nutritious cricket protein in the form of powder or energy bars.

 

Other more palatable alternatives include legumes, quinoa, nuts and hemp.

 

These are all viable options for aged care centres committed to sustainability while helping residents meet their much needed protein requirements.

 

 

References

 

https://www.airprotein.com/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/protein-solar-foods-air-renewable-energy_n_5e15ae04c5b6c7b859d32d47?ri18n=true

https://www.livescience.com/air-protein-meat.html

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/air-protein-introduces-the-worlds-first-air-based-food-300955972.html

https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/protein-from-air

https://www.forbes.com/sites/natalieparletta/2019/08/04/meatless-meat-is-on-the-horizon–youll-be-surprised-where-it-comes-from/#548f28697ed2

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/oct/29/what-would-a-climate-diet-look-like-in-australia

 

 


 

Cost of Malnutrition 

Our Cost of Malnutrition report outlines the problem of malnutrition and its various costs – both financial and physical – and offers a guide to its identification and management.

Download your free report HERE

 


 

Plants, protein and vegetarians

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 26, 2020 in Aging, Protein, Sustainability

“But where do you get your protein from?” This is a common question of vegetarians, perpetuated by a long-standing myth that if you don’t eat your meat you will become weak and emaciated.

 

This myth has been well and truly busted – but it doesn’t mean that people who eschew meat can rest on their laurels. Like all older adults, vegetarians need to be mindful of meeting their protein needs.

 

 

Protein matters

 

It is true that we need protein, even more so with aging. While Australian guidelines spout 0.75g/kg bodyweight per day, this falls short of international guidelines stipulating 1.2g/kg for older adults – and recent evidence putting it as high as 1.5g/kg.

 

These levels help counteract diminishing lean muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging, reducing risk of sarcopenia and associated falls, fractures, hospital admissions, declining independence and mortality.

 

And it’s not just muscles that need protein. These industrious amino acid assemblages support wound healing, bone density, immunity, lung function and cognition.

 

So how do vegetarians get theirs?

 

 

Unravelling plant protein

 

When combined with exercise, research shows it doesn’t matter which type of protein people eat – plant, animal or otherwise – to boost muscle health.

 

But while plant sources comprise 40% of the world’s protein intake, Australians get 60% of theirs from animal origins.

 

And although the Australian Guide to Health Eating recommends legumes as a primary protein source for vegetarians, a review found that legumes constitute a meagre 0.44% of diets in aged care facilities – served with meat.

 

Even for non-vegetarians, legumes are a no-brainer – they are cheap, versatile, packed with nutrients and fibre and one of the best solutions to soft-textured diets for older adults with swallowing or chewing difficulties.

 

The scrumptious, wholesome meals that can be cooked with legumes are only limited by the imagination, ranging from a vast range of soups and vegetable patties to dals, dips and casseroles.

 

Other non-meat sources of protein abound too, including eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, wholegrains, seeds and hemp.

 

For older adults with higher protein needs due to poor appetite, declining muscle mass and strength or illness, eggs and dairy (cream or milk powder) can be used to fortify meals and make a great base for snacks.

 

Beyond protein, evidence suggests that a good quality diet is most important for preventing frailty and fragility, providing all the nutrients, polyphenols and fibre essential for good health.

 

After addressing dietary needs, some nutrition supplements might be advisable. Vegetarians and vegans would benefit from an algal source of the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA that is consumed directly through deep-sea fish.

 

Vegans may need supplementation to meet requirements for Vitamins D and B12. Pea protein can be used as a concentrated protein source where needed. Contrary to popular opinion, there is plenty of iron in plant foods – including legumes.

 

 

What it means for residential aged care

 

With a growing population embracing various diets without animal-sourced food – for health, ethical or environmental reasons – aged care facilities need to step up and leave the antiquated “meat and three veg” behind.

 

Special diets aside, the variety and quality of food provided in residential care is in dire need of an overhaul to address nutritional, cultural and personal needs and preferences in a way that enhances appetite and the social bonding that can only come from sharing a tasty meal in a pleasant environment.

 

 

References

 

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/4/protein-and-vegetarian-diets

https://www.nutritionsociety.org/papers/can-plant-based-proteins-support-healthy-musculoskeletal-ageing

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-diet-aging/cutting-back-on-vegetable-protein-tied-to-unhealthy-aging-idUSKCN1VB1ZB

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/09/counting-beans-why-2020-should-be-the-year-of-the-legume?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://theconversation.com/why-iron-is-such-an-important-part-of-your-diet-69974

 

 

 


 

Cost of Malnutrition 

Our Cost of Malnutrition report outlines the problem of malnutrition and its various costs – both financial and physical – and offers a guide to its identification and management.

Download your free report HERE

 


 

Exercise in a pill?

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 20, 2020 in Exercise, Mobility, Muscle, Protein

Some people will do anything to get out of doing exercise, and researchers are scrambling to oblige, showing physical health benefits – in mice and flies, that is – of isolated proteins that could potentially be taken in a pill.

 

 

The research

 

Noting that a naturally occurring protein called Sestrin builds up in muscles after a heavy physical workout, scientists from the University of Michigan were curious to see if boosting Sestrin levels could produce the same health benefits without exercise.

 

They tested this in three groups of Drosophila flies, two of them bred either unable to produce Sestrin or saturated with it, and a normal group for comparison.

 

They were all put on a makeshift fly treadmill for three weeks.

 

“Flies can usually run around four to six hours at this point and the normal flies’ abilities improved over that period,” says researcher Jun Hee Lee.

 

But the flies without Sestrin showed no improvement with exercise, while those with maxed-out Sestrin levels showed superior abilities to the trained flies, even without working out – and exercising them didn’t increase their endurance.

 

They note studies with mice also found that Sestrin improved aerobic capacity, respiration and fat burning – all benefits associated with exercise.

 

Other researchers at Augusta University, US, targeted a different protein, myostatin, that inhibits muscle growth, testing lean and obese mice that couldn’t make the protein.

 

Both groups bulked up, but the obese mice had similar metabolic and heart health indicators to the lean mice, and better than obese mice that could produce myostatin.

 

“While much more research is needed, at this point myostatin appears to be a very promising pathway for protection against obesity-derived cardiometabolic dysfunction,” says researchers Joshua Butcher.

 

 

And beyond…

 

Assuming that you can extrapolate these findings to humans – which itself could be drawing a long bow – researcher and sports dietitian Karen Murphy, from the University of South Australia, expresses concern about replacing exercise with a pill.

 

“There are multitudes of benefits to physical activity beside burning muscle, like heart health, physical health, weight control, mental health and social interaction,” she says. Even cognitive decline can be buffered with exercise, as well as bone density.

 

And many other nutrients are essential for wellbeing and muscle mass.

 

“Most people consuming a balanced diet, with foods from all food groups in the right portions, will have little need for a supplement,” says Murphy.

 

High quality protein is particularly important for muscle wasting that occurs with age, as well as maintaining mobility and healthy bones.

 

“For some populations an added supplement that boosts muscle synthesis might help such as in elderly populations where muscle wasting is seen. However, to build muscle you also have to work the muscle.”

 

Essentially, for people who genuinely can’t exercise, there could be some benefits to pills – but they still can’t replace all the other benefits of moving your body.

 

Even incapacitated people with dementia can derive surprising benefits from personalised movement.

 

And in a world where people are moving less, getting active is more important than ever.

 

 

References

 

https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/exercise-sestrin-protein/

https://newatlas.com/exercise-pill-myostatin-protein-suppression-mice-augusta/49258/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4208946/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3381813/

 

Omega-3s could help boost muscle strength

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Dec 4, 2019 in Muscle, Protein, Sarcopenia

Since omega-3 fats were discovered in the 1970s, growing evidence has found they have far-reaching benefits for the body and brain, from fighting heart disease and improving cognition, arthritis and eye health to warding off anxiety and depression.

 

More recently, studies have revealed these active fats may improve protein metabolism in skeletal muscles, which could have implications for loss of muscle mass and strength with aging.

 

 

The importance of skeletal muscle

 

Skeletal muscle comprises 45% of body mass and is critical for physical function, respiratory and overall metabolic health and recovery from illness or surgery.

 

Yet muscle mass and strength start waning with age as muscle protein breaks down more quickly than it can be regenerated.

 

This has been linked, in part, to low-level inflammation that often occurs with aging and is linked to frailty. Chronic inflammation has also been associated with abnormalities of mitochondrial function – the cells’ powerhouse – in aging skeletal muscle.

 

Combined with inadequate physical activity and poor diet, such declines can lead to sarcopenia, a debilitating condition afflicting one in three older adults, increasing risk of falls and fractures with detrimental impacts on health, activities of daily living and quality of life.

 

 

How do omega-3s work?

 

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that form vital parts of all cellular and intracellular membranes where they support cell structure and a host of metabolic activities that impact gene expression and mitochondrial function, among other things.

 

The most studied omega-3s are the long-chain versions EPA and DHA, which also have properties that reduce inflammation and blood clotting and improve blood flow, accounting for much of their health benefits.

 

Accordingly, growing research has shown that EPA and DHA positively impact skeletal muscle regeneration, suggesting it can help muscles take up protein. This is likely to vary according to protein intake, which is very important to keep up.

 

 

Omega-3 sources

 

Rich plant sources of omega-3s include nuts and seeds, especially linseeds and walnuts, dark leafy greens, and a succulent plant that grows like a weed in hot, dry areas of Australia called purslane or portulaca.

 

While these have their own health benefits and can be converted into EPA and DHA by the body, it can be more efficient to consume direct sources of these long-chain omega-3s. That includes algae and deep-sea fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel.

 

In combination with a healthy diet, fish oil supplements can also boost omega-3 levels, with numerous add-on health benefits.

 

 

References

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021432/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00144/full

https://www.aging-us.com/article/101210/text

 

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