Are protein and aging connected? Recent studies show that lower-carb diets and healthy fats are connected to good health and a longer life. However, there’s less information reported about the effects of protein on aging and lifespan. If you want to slow down the aging process and live longer then it’s important to know issues like the ideal “macro split” of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. For example, there are question marks about whether or not you should eat red meat if saturated fats are bad, and whether protein should be about one-quarter of total calories like on the ketogenic diet.
There’s no question that protein and amino acids are important for good health. However, other key issues are the type and amount of protein. For example, the average American consumes 2x the recommended daily protein, and much of it is from processed meats. In recent years, low-carb diets like Keto and Atkins have been trending. However, many health experts warn against the long-term effects of making fat up to 80% of your diet. So it helps to have some guidelines about protein including how to include it in your diet and how it can affect your chance of living a longer life.
What Is Protein All About?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients and is needed for building lean muscle mass. It’s found in many animal-sourced products like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. However, you can also get protein from plant-based sources like grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.
The human body requires a big amount of macronutrients, which explains why they’re “macro” nutrients compared to micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Fun Fact: Protein makes up around 15% of a person’s total body weight.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. These organic compounds include various elements including:
Amino acids form peptides, which form a protein. This is needed for various body functions like building/repairing muscles. When people consume protein the body breaks it down to build muscle mass.
Protein can also with other systems. They include the metabolic and immune systems. Another benefit of protein is that it can help you stay full. For example, studies show that eating 1-2 eggs for breakfast is more filling than refined carbs like toast, bagels, or pancakes.
Various studies show that protein can help people feel full. This is especially the case with “complete proteins.” They contain all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) that people must get from outside sources like food and supplements.
For example, a 2014 study showed that a high-protein afternoon snack high-protein yogurt was more filling than crackers and high-fat chocolate. The yogurt group was less hungry in the afternoon than the chocolate group. The dairy group at a smaller dinner versus the cracker and chocolate groups.
In terms of the daily protein intake, it’s recommended that protein make up 10% to 35% of total calories. There are different factors about how much a person should eat. They include age, gender, and physical activity. It’s also recommended that people eat lean protein from different animal and plant sources.
Is There a Connection between Protein and Aging?
Various studies show that there’s a connection between protein, aging, and longevity. However, they might be surprising. It’s greatly related not only to eating protein, but also how much and what kinds you consume. For example, some studies show that a high-carb, low-protein diet is linked to good metabolic health and longer life. This might be surprising since low-carb diets have been trending in recent years.
Many health experts argue that low-carb diets can help with weight loss but shouldn’t be maintained for more than a couple of months. These diets often swap out root vegetables, beans, and most fruits. The problem with this approach is that these foods are loaded with nutrients and the body’s first choice for energy is carbs.
There’s also the fact that National Geographic’s Blue Zones project showed that the world’s longest-living regions tend to eat low amounts of animal protein. The most popular options are fish, shellfish, and chicken.
It also depends on the types of carbs you consume. Refined grains have been linked to blood sugar spikes, inflammation, and even type-2 diabetes. However, whole grains are often considered superfoods since they’re chock-full of nutrients including protein, vitamins/minerals, and fiber.
Another takeaway from studies related to protein and aging show that certain amino acids are linked to metabolism and aging/lifespan. This includes branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and methionine in particular. So if you consume low amounts of these particular aminos they could affect your projected lifespan.
BCAAs have been trending in recent years. They include one-third of the essential amino acids (EAAs) that people must get from food and supplements. There are various BCAA supplements available like tablets and protein powders.
There are several foods high in methionine. They include meat, fish, eggs, cereal grains, and some nuts/seeds like Brazil nuts and sesame seeds. These foods could be a key to slower aging and longer life.
Top Tips for Longer Life
1. Eat a healthy/well-balanced diet
This includes options like fatty fish, veggies, whole grains, beans, fruits, and dairy. Try to consume more unsaturated than saturated fat. Good options include:
The fat you should definitely avoid is trans fat. This is often used for deep-fried and pre-packaged foods. It was invented for tub margarine so that’s an automatic red flag.
2. Do daily physical/mental exercise
Both are important to fight the signs of aging. Health experts often recommend doing some sort of cardio/weight-resistance exercise for at least an hour on most days of the week. Is a gym membership required? You don’t necessarily have to do traditional exercise as long as you’re physically active.
It’s also recommended that you also do daily mental exercises. This can include different options like crossword puzzles and memory games. This can help to keep your mind sharp and boost brain function.
3. Build a social network
This should start with your current friends and family. You can also use social media platforms like Facebook. However, keep in mind there’s no substitute for real-world interaction versus email inboxes and video chats.
4. Avoid being obese/overweight
Besides the bodyweight itself make sure to watch your body-mass index (BMI). For example, these factors in issues like tall people are generally heavier than short people. People often focus on the importance of avoiding obesity. However, being overweight can also increase your risk of serious diseases like type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
5. Don’t/Quit smoking
While moderate alcohol might provide health benefits there’s no question that any cigarette/e-cigarette/cigar smoking is bad for your health. Consider that when you light a cigarette it produces 100+ toxic chemicals.
While vaping has been trending in recent years, the only main difference is it’s nicotine-free. If you want to live longer then ditching smoking then focus on protein and aging.