Age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, is becoming a huge issue in our population; in fact, many are saying it’s more prevalent and concerning than osteoporosis in the elderly.

According to Suzette Pereira, PhD, Abbott research scientist and muscle health expert, “Muscle loss is the aging factor that is rarely discussed. Starting at age 40, adults can lose up to 8% of their muscle mass each decade. After 70, that rate almost doubles to up to 15%.”

Nearly 45% of older adults are impacted by sarcopenia, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the condition causes a loss of strength, energy and mobility, along with an increased risk of falls, illness and poor health.

READ: Protein is critical for aging ranchers to avoid sarcopenia

However, unlike osteoporosis, Pereira says sarcopenia is reversible with the right nutrition, which includes plenty of protein, plus exercise.

Pereira says, “Because protein is a critical component in helping rebuild muscle, which impacts your mobility, balance and posture as well as overall strength and energy, adults should make sure they are getting the right amount and right kinds of protein.”

Current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 46 grams per day for women ages 19 to 70+ and 56 grams per day for men ages 19 to 70+. However, experts say this level is nowhere near high enough for older adults, who may need double the amount of the recommended protein.

READ: “Exploring solutions to counter muscle loss” by Stephen Daniells for Food Navigator

Promoting a protein-rich diet for the elderly is easier said than done. Visit any nursing home or assisted living facility, and you’ll notice the preferred foods are soft, bland and rich in carbohydrates. What’s more, most are required to follow the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which we know lean heavy toward grains, fruits and vegetables and steer folks away from saturated fats and proteins.

Scientists are looking at an interesting solution to entice the elderly to consume more protein in their diets — meat-enriched ice cream.

According to Food Navigator, scientists are experimenting with incorporating meat-derived ingredients into breads, spaghetti, ice cream, yoghurt and chocolate.

“We have demonstrated simple ways by which meat can be incorporate into familiar foods,” said the researchers at AgResearch Limited in New Zealand. “The results suggest the potential such products have to help elderly and other consumers meet their nutrition requirements.”

READ: “Meat-enriched ice cream? Scientists explore unexpected formats for older consumers” from Food Navigator

Clearly, protein is needed for all ages, and this is becoming more apparent as issues like sarcopenia come to the forefront. I’m not sure how meat-enriched ice cream would taste, but I’m all for new and innovative food products that can help meet the protein needs of the elderly.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.