Whey protein proves best for muscle growth in older adults, study finds

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

© EmirMemedovski / Getty Images
© EmirMemedovski / Getty Images

Related tags Whey Whey protein

New research reviewing the efficacy of various protein supplements has observed that whey protein paired with resistance training may demonstrate the greatest efficacy for muscle growth and strength gains in older individuals.

The meta-analysis, published in the journal Nutrients​ and funded by grants from Taipei Medical University-Shuang Ho Hospital, compared whey protein to casein, meat, soy and peanut proteins.

“Whey protein plus resistance training was determined to be the optimal treatment regimen for muscle mass and strength gains as well as restoration of physical mobility with large effects and low to moderate certainty of evidence, despite of its relatively high risk of non-serious side effects,” the Taiwanese researchers wrote.

They added that the findings may help clinicians prescribe the optimal protein supplementation (PS) protocol during resistance training (RT) intervention to ensure optimal treatment outcomes.

Sarcopenia prevalence

As the aging population grows, so do the number of people suffering from age-related sarcopenia​, with a prevalence of around 10% in community-dwelling older individuals worldwide. Characterized by a progressive attenuation of muscle mass, the condition is known to subsequently increase the risk of physical difficulties and disabilities in the elderly as well as long-term health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and arthritis.

Previous research has shown that protein supplementation can improve the efficacy of resistance training​ in the elderly, yet there is a need to determine the most effective and efficient treatment strategies to restore muscle strength and function. The present study sought to compare the efficacy of different protein supplements combined with resistance training on muscle mass, strength and physical mobility in older adults.

Study details

The meta-analysis involved a comprehensive search of randomized controlled trials within the PubMed, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, ClinicalKey, China Knowledge Resource Integrated, Physiotherapy Evidence and Google Scholar databases.

The researchers identified 78 studies that included a total of 5,272 participants for inclusion and conducted meta-regression analysis to identity the relevant moderator of the treatment efficacy.

It was reported that from the six protein sources included, whey supplements were most effective for improving the efficacy of resistance training for muscle mass, handgrip strength and walking speed.

In addition, it was noted that the participant’s health condition, sex and supplement dosage were factors which significantly impacted the treatment efficacy on muscle mass.

“Given the facts that muscle mass changes in response to PS significantly contribute to additional increases in strength and walking capability during exercise training and that increased leg strength is associated with faster habitual walking speed following PS plus RT, especially in those at high risk of sarcopenia and frailty, the superior effects of WP + RT on muscle mass may parallelly give rise to the superiority of effects on strength and mobility while comparing with other protein sources in this NMA,” the researchers wrote.


Source: Nutrients
doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu16070941
“Comparative Efficacy of Different Protein Supplements on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Physical Indices of Sarcopenia among Community-Dwelling, Hospitalized or Institutionalized Older Adults Undergoing Resistance Training: A Network Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials”
Authors: Chun-De Liao et al.

Related topics Nutritionals