AGING
October 9, 2009

Meat Fuels Independence?

People who ate meat a couple times a week in middle age remained independent longer than those who did not, a recent study found. Eggs and fish...

Can what you eat in middle−age help your chances of remaining independent in old age? According to a new study from researchers at Kyoto Women’s University in Japan, eating a couple of servings of meat every week may help. Seniors in Japan typically live their last seven years needing some degree of help from others, for even routine daily activities – the researchers set out to determine what effect food choices might have on this statistic.

The team, led by Yasuyuki Nakamura, followed over 2,300 healthy women and men, who began the study between the ages of 47 and 59. None suffered from any form of heart disease at this time. Participants were tracked over the next 19 years, and their intake of meat, fish, and eggs was recorded. At the end of the 19 years, the researchers analyzed the participants’ degree of independence – that is, the individuals’ need for help with such activities as bathing, dressing, and eating, as well as overall mobility. By the study’s end, 427 of the participants had died and 75 were classified as dependent.

The researchers found a strong correlation between eating meat twice a week or more during middle−age and being independent in older age.

The researchers found a strong correlation between eating meat twice a week or more during middle−age and being independent in older age. This relationship held true even when other factors – smoking, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, body mass index, and so forth – were taken into consideration or Control for.

Interestingly, eating fish or eggs seemed to have no effect on independence in older age.

The team suggests that the link between meat eating and independence may exist in part because of the increased protein the individuals take in from the meat. But why the same benefit was not observed with fish or egg consumption – both foods are also high in protein – is unclear at this time.

The study was published in the August 28, 2009 issue of the journal Gerontology.

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