Most of us will face some health challenges as we get older. Our life experience may strengthen our character, but our bodies increasingly demand more care to enable us to carry out everyday activities.
The scientific literature increasingly points to the importance of nutrition in restoring and maintaining good health. Our own research focuses on identifying novel nutrition interventions that support and promote active and healthy aging. The partnership arrangements we have entered into allow us to access state of the art ingredients and the very best in scientific evaluation techniques.
Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of lean muscle tissue, with commensurate loss of strength and increased risk of disability. Did you know that the quality and quantity of our muscle tissue starts deteriorating from our mid-30’s? Fortunately, exercise and the right nutrition – particularly protein intake – can reduce this effect.
However, many of us struggle to include adequate protein in our diet and this can have significant negative implications for our wellbeing, especially in later life. Functional decline can lead to frailty, often resulting in falls and fractures requiring hospitalization and this can limit our ability to undertake normal daily activities.
Lean muscle also plays a vital role in insulin regulation and the management of blood glucose. Loss of lean muscle mass is associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Sarcopenic obesity is a phenomenon observed by medical professionals at an increasing rate.
Dietary intervention can help manage sarcopenia. It is very important to consume sufficient daily protein and our protein requirement increases as we get older. An individual aged 65 might require as much as 1.2g-1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight, compared with a 30 year-old requiring 0.8g/kg. That’s 50% or more protein than a younger adult!
In America the annual cost to the healthcare system of sarcopenia-related treatment is estimated at $18.5 billion³. That translates to around $2 billion in Australia.
We hope that our research and product development will help to reduce this financial burden and, importantly, contribute to improving people’s quality of life.
Protein makes up around 17% of our body’s composition and is present in every cell. We obtain it from our diet both from animal and plant sources (and recently from insects too!); however, not all proteins are equal. Some are complete proteins, meaning that they contain all nine essential amino acids that cannot be synthesised by the human body, whilst others only partially satisfy this need.
Research informs us that the essential amino acid Leucine is important in promoting muscle protein synthesis and some proteins are a richer source of Leucine than others. Furthermore, protein intake is more efficient in building muscle when evenly distributed throughout the day⁴ and accompanied by load-bearing exercise.
We are currently developing a unique range of complete proteins that are rich in Leucine. They are designed to be easier to digest and to act more effectively in improving muscle strength and stimulating muscle protein synthesis. These proteins will be added to foods and beverages, to allow them to easily be included in everyday consumption.
Mild cognitive impairment is something many of us will experience as we get older. Whether it is requiring longer to do the shopping math or simply recalling where those house keys were last left! For some, cognitive decline may be more serious and our aging population means there is likely to be an increasing number of people who will face the significant challenges associated with dementia.
Emerging scientific evidence points to the benefit of nutritional intervention in supporting cognitive function and possibly even in slowing the rate of early-onset dementia.
We are presently reviewing the scientific literature and undertaking early-stage product development trials incorporating a number of promising functional ingredients. Our goal is to develop foods and beverages that support cognitive health and that can easily be included in everyday consumption.