Health Effects of Increasing Protein Intake Above the Current Population Reference Intake in Older Adults: A Systematic Review of the Health Council of the Netherlands

Linda M Hengeveld*, Janette de Goede, Lydia A Afman, Stephan J L Bakker, Joline W J Beulens, Ellen E Blaak, Eric Boersma, Johanna M Geleijnse, Johannes Hans B van Goudoever, Maria T E Hopman, Jolein A Iestra, Stef P J Kremers, Ronald P Mensink, Nicole M de Roos, Coen D A Stehouwer, Janneke Verkaik-Kloosterman, Emely de Vet, Marjolein Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Whether older adults need more protein than younger adults is debated. The population reference intake for adults set by the European Food Safety Authority is 0.83 g/kg body weight (BW)/d based primarily on nitrogen balance studies, but the underlying data on health outcomes are outdated. An expert committee of the Health Council of the Netherlands conducted a systematic review (SR) of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effect of increased protein intake on health outcomes in older adults from the general population with an average habitual protein intake >= 0.8 g/(kg BW center dot d). Exposures were the following: 1) extra protein compared with no protein and 2) extra protein and physical exercise compared with physical exercise. Outcomes included lean body mass, muscle strength, physical performance, bone health, blood pressure, serum glucose and insulin, serum lipids, kidney function, and cognition. Data of >1300 subjects from 18 RCTs were used. Risk of bias was judged as high (n = 9) or "some concerns" (n = 9). In 7 of 18 RCTs, increased protein intake beneficially affected >= 1 of the tested outcome measures of lean body mass. For muscle strength, this applied to 3 of 8 RCTs in the context of physical exercise and in 1 of 7 RCTs without physical exercise. For the other outcomes, = 0.8 g/(kg BW center dot d) elicits health benefits.

Statement of Significance: This systematic review provides a comprehensive, transparent, and up-to-date overview of randomized controlled trials that explicitly focus on potential health effects of protein intakes above the nitrogen-balance studies-based population reference intake of 0.8 g/(kg BW center dot d) in older adults from the general population. This review also serves as an additional source of evidence for deriving a recommended protein intake for older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernmab140
Pages (from-to)1083-1117
Number of pages35
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date23 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • dietary protein
  • amino acids
  • protein supplements
  • aging
  • resistant exercise
  • muscle mass
  • physical function
  • intervention studies
  • systematic literature review
  • dietary reference value

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