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Aging gracefully isn’t just about adding years; it’s about ensuring those years are lived healthily and free from chronic conditions. A recent study from Tufts University sheds light on a vital piece of the puzzle: the role of protein, especially plant-based protein, in promoting healthy aging among women.

With an estimated 15% of the U.S. population aged over 65 and an anticipated rise to nearly 25% by 2060, addressing the health challenges of aging becomes paramount. Chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are prevalent, affecting 27% of people over 65 in 2018. By 2050, a majority of those aged 50 and older are projected to grapple with one or more chronic health issues.

The Tufts Study: Protein and Healthy Aging:
Tufts University’s study, based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study, explored the link between protein consumption, particularly plant protein, and healthy aging. The findings revealed a compelling association between midlife protein intake and the likelihood of aging healthily.

Plant Protein’s Prowess:
While protein, in general, showed benefits for healthy aging, plant protein emerged as a star player. Those who incorporated more plant-based protein into their diets were 46% more likely to experience healthy aging. In contrast, reliance on animal-based protein sources showed a 6% decrease in the likelihood of maintaining health into older age.

The Protein-MTORC1 Connection:
Kelsey Costa, a registered dietitian nutritionist, suggests that the positive impact of protein on healthy aging may be linked to the activation of the mTORC1 signaling pathway. This pathway, associated with muscle protein synthesis, tends to decline with age but can be stimulated by dietary protein and physical activity.

Beyond Protein: Plant-Based Goodness:
The study authors acknowledge that the benefits observed in those favoring plant protein may also be attributed to other components in plant-based foods, such as fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants. These elements are known for their anti-inflammatory and health-boosting properties.

Advice for Healthy Aging:
Costa recommends adopting a predominantly plant-based eating regimen for healthy aging. Embrace a varied diet rich in plant-derived foods, including whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Beware of ultra-processed “plant-based” products and opt for minimally processed, nutrient-rich options.

In conclusion, the Tufts University study underscores the significance of protein, especially from plant sources, in the pursuit of healthy aging. As we navigate the aging landscape, the choices we make today, particularly in our diets, can significantly impact our ability to age healthily and enjoy a fulfilling life in the later years.

Check out some of our favourite plant-based influencers known for cooking up tasty and healthy meals:

Andrea Saliba Nutrition (local holistic nutritionist)
The Cake Mama (Vegan baker + vegan meals for the whole family)
Plant Based Juniors (plant based meals for kids)
Vancouver With Love