Protein for Life: A framework for action

Posted on: 02/04/2019

A new white paper highlights opportunities for improving health expectancies in the UK population through improved protein consumption.

Protein intake is insufficient among middle-aged and older adults in the UK, and this insufficiency is a major contributor to ill health and disability. Maintaining muscle strength through adequate protein intake will help to extend active participation in the workforce, benefit the economy, and reduce healthcare costs.

The Protein for Life team, team, a multidisciplinary research group of researchers working at the academia-industry interface, have produced a new white paper presenting a framework for healthy ageing that achieves these productivity gains by engaging with key stakeholder groups.

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The white paper explains that much of the UK population fails to consume adequate protein to maintain muscle strength and function into later life. This has a direct cost to the economy in terms of healthcare (estimated to be £2.5 billion per annum for over-70s), and a wider cost to the economy through loss of productivity (work days lost due to individuals or their carers).

Muscle loss can be reduced or delayed by increasing protein intake and exercise, with the period from middle age (40 years +) being critically important. The current UK suggested minimum intake (RDA) of protein is 0.75 g/kg/day regardless of age, however international recommendations specifically for older adults vary between 1.2 and 1.5 g/kg/day. One in three over-40 year olds do not meet the lower UK target, and over 80% fail to meet the international recommendations for healthy ageing.

The white paper outlines the steps that the Protein for Life team have identified as being key to improving this outlook. For example, they have identified morning and between meals as significant opportunities for optimising protein intakes, perhaps via novel and innovative breakfast and snack products with elevated protein content.

You can download the “Protein for Life: A framework for action” white paper here.


The work is a result of cross-council UKRI funding¬†for “Priming Food Partnerships” for a collaborative pump-priming activity. Protein for Life: Towards a Focused Dietary Framework for Healthy Ageing brings together a broad range of academic expertise to begin to address a strategic problem in the food supply chain. The Priming Food Partnerships project was led by Newcastle University with a number of industry partners providing help and information with a number of industry partners providing help and information. KTN played a role in the formation of the funding and initiated this report as we are keen to ensure the broad dissemination of knowledge to all stakeholders in the food chain.

The Protein for Life team who authored the white paper are: Prof. Emma Stevenson, Prof. Jeff Brunstrom, Prof. Alex Johnstone, Dr Mark Green, Dr Liz Williams and Dr Bernard Corfe.

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