Older Americans Miss the Mark on Protein; Pork Provides Solutions

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More than one in three older Americans do not get enough protein, according to new research. 

Researchers from The Ohio State University and Abbott Nutrition evaluated protein intake in relation to diet patterns and functional outcomes in adults aged 51 and older, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 

''Despite the protein craze in America, the data shows there's still a big gap in adults' protein intake,'' says Christopher Taylor, associate professor at Ohio State 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.''

The report, published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, says overall diet quality among adults aged 51 years and older needs improvement.

“People of all ages need protein for strong, healthy bodies,” says Leia Flure, registered dietitian and blogger at moderationmaven.com. “But the results of this study are particularly concerning for older adults, who need extra protein to maintain muscle mass, fight illness and infection, and recover from injuries.”

The analysis showed protein consumption is a strong indicator of adults' overall diet, nutrition and physical well-being, and included the following findings:
• Adults who weren't getting enough protein had poorer quality diets and weren't consuming enough important vitamins and minerals like choline, vitamin C, zinc and vitamin D.
• More than 40% of adults who did not meet the protein recommendation ate fewer than three meals per day.
• Of those not meeting their protein intake, one-third were up to 30 grams of protein short per day.
• Those not meeting the protein recommendation were more likely to encounter physical limitations, such as sitting for long periods or struggling to get into or out of bed.

The Power of Pork
Including pork in a healthy, balanced eating pattern can help adults get the protein they need and many other essential nutrients, Flure says. 

“A 3-ounce pork chop (about the size of a deck of cards) packs in over 20 grams of protein, plus iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins,” she says. 

Slow cooked shredded pork is another tasty, versatile option that can be used in barbecue sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, baked potatoes, chili and more. 

“Many people are accustomed to pork chops being tough and dry, but when properly prepared, whole pork cuts are delicious and tender,” Flure adds. “The biggest mistake people make when cooking pork is to rely on how it looks. Instead, use a meat thermometer. Once it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part, it's done.”

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