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Almost half of Irish adults aged over 40 believe they either do not eat enough protein, or are unaware if they are consuming the required amount, a new national survey has found. And despite advice that middle- aged and older people’s protein requirements increase with age, 50 per cent of over-55s think they should eat the same amount as they get older.

A leading dietician said the iReach survey of 1,000 adults demonstrates “a need for education and awareness” from age 40 upwards on increasing protein intake as people age and the need to eat it across all meals. A total of 45 per cent of over- 40s believe they either do not eat enough protein, or do not know if they are meeting dietary guidelines.

After middle age, adults lose an average of 3 per cent of their muscle strength every year, limiting their ability to perform many routine activities. Consumption of protein can ward against and reverse the agerelated degenerative condition sarcopenia, a progressive skeletal muscle disorder involving accelerated loss of muscle mass and function linked to falls, functional decline, frailty and mortality.

“Adequate protein intake throughout all life stages is essential for health, as proteins are the building blocks within the body,” said dietician Ms Noreen Roche, who warns against the prevalence of sarcopenia, which can occur in mid-life. “A low intake of protein will not maintain optimal muscle mass and function, which decline as we get older.

Regular consumption of high-quality proteins like tinned tuna, fish and eggs are important to ensure we protect against muscle loss as we age.” The survey found 71 per cent of those aged 18-to-24 believe they eat enough protein, suggesting a better awareness of dietary requirements among the young, perhaps linked to fitness and social media cultures. Ms Roche, who has been involved with 13 All-Ireland winning teams, stressed that lifelong, high-quality protein intake is a key factor in maintaining good health among the older and middle-aged population.