How Protein Helps the Elderly Combat Cognitive and Physical Decline

by Dr. David Minkoff June 18, 2019 4 min read

How Protein Helps the Elderly Combat Cognitive and Physical Decline

The following is adapted from The Search for the Perfect Protein.

At my clinic, we have an anti-aging practice. It’s not uncommon for older people to come to us and say, “My memory isn’t great, and I don’t have energy like I used to. Can you help me?” It’s heartbreaking every time because people don’t want to feel or act old.

They want to feel and think like their younger selves, except their physical and cognitive decline is making that nearly impossible. Do these folks have hope for improvement?

Absolutely. To varying degrees, older people can always improve. In fact, they often have the most room for improvement due to how bad things have gotten.

In the breakdowns we see with older patients, a common culprit is poor nutrition. Some of the elderly can’t afford a high-nutrition diet, and some simply don’t know what good nutrition looks like—they don’t eat well or don’t supplement correctly.

In this article, we’ll see how poor nutrition spins out into other health problems related to our physical and mental well-being, and what the elderly can do to combat it.

 

Aging Isn’t Solely Responsible for Lean Muscle Loss

It’s impossible to prevent all age-related breakdowns, but they can definitely be slowed down and whole-body performance can improve. When we contrast MRI images of a person’s arm muscles at age twenty and fifty, we can see that the average person loses about thirty percent of their lean body weight throughout those years.

Normally, this is considered a byproduct of aging, but studies completed at USC show that the cells of an older person can make protein just as well as those of a twenty-year-old—the real problem is that their dietary habits and poor GI function don’t supply their bodies with the nutrients they need to maintain lean body mass.

Another issue with many older people is that they aren’t using or stressing their muscles like they used to. For example, when I was forty, there were 300 men in my age group for Ironman races. Now that I’m seventy, and there are usually only ten or twenty.

Most men my age are retired and have the time to commit to training, and I believe many of them would if their bodies weren’t broken down. Those who continue to train and maintain their performance are doing the right things physically and nutritionally.

 

Dealing with a Lifetime of Environmental Toxins

The elderly have also spent a lifetime living with environmental toxins. As a result, their intestinal membranes are often thin, and there is a delayed turnover of the inner-lining cells—making them more susceptible to diverticulitis and infections.

Normal intestinal cell turnover should occur every three or four days, but without enough essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, it might happen every seven to ten days.

This means that the membranes are not as strong as they should be. The junctions where membranes meet can become unsealed, and bacteria can work their way into the urinary tract or bloodstream. Also, our blood contains immune proteins called immunoglobulins that protect us from infection, but if they are low, our ability to resist a virus or bacteria decreases. Amino acids keep your immunoglobulin levels up.

If one can maintain their nutrition throughout the years, they will stay active and mentally competent—nutrition is the most important factor of healthy aging. Essential amino acids are also key, so I make it a habit to take supplements every day.

I want to be doing Ironman races well into my eighties and beyond!

 

Protein Malnourishment Can Look Like Alzheimer’s

There’s no doubt that nutritional deficiencies play a large role in the rise of Alzheimer’s we’ve seen in the past twenty years. However, just because the symptoms look like Alzheimer’s doesn’t that’s the culprit. A lack of protein may be to blame.

A four-star World War II general brought his 93-year-old wife to see me. They had been married for seventy-two years, but she no longer recognized him. It was heartbreaking. She had been to several neurologists, yet none of them had been able to help.

Through testing, we discovered she was protein malnourished, lead-toxic, and saddled with other issues. Amino acid supplements were part of her therapy, and after about six months of treatment, she improved to the point where she knew everyone’s name in the clinic, could count to 100, and most importantly, recognized her husband!

One day, she brought in a scrapbook from her childhood, identified every person, and told me the story behind every picture. It was obvious that rectifying her protein deficiency with amino acid supplements played a big role in repairing her brain.

The success of her treatment sparked curiosity and motivation in her 92-year-old husband. He loved to play golf, but could no longer see the ball due to macular degeneration. We created a similar nutrition program for him. After three-months, he scored a documented two-line improvement on the eye chart.

He saw the golf ball again and actually beat his 72-year-old son in a game!

For more advice on combating physical and cognitive decline, you can find The Search for the Perfect Protein on Amazon.

For the #1 Essential Amino Acid supplement that 99% utilized by the body to create new protein look HERE.

Dr. David Minkoff is board certified in pediatrics and served as codirector of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Palomar Medical Center in San Diego, California. With his wife, Sue, he cofounded LifeWorks Wellness Center in 1997, and in 2000, he cofounded BodyHealth, a nutrition company that offers a unique range of dietary supplements to the public and medical practitioners. A forty-two-time IRONMAN finisher, Dr. Minkoff is passionate about fitness and continues to train on a regular basis. He and his wife reside in Clearwater, Florida.

Dr. David Minkoff
Dr. David Minkoff

Dr. Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then worked as an attending physician in infectious disease, co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine until 1995. In 1997, his interest in alternative and complementary medicine led him to open LifeWorks Wellness Center, which has become one of the foremost alternative medicine clinics in the U.S. His search to find a source of the highest quality nutritional supplements led him to establish BodyHealth in 2000, a resource that could provide doctors with the best possible supplementation and education for their patients. Today, the BodyHealth products are used by hundreds of practitioners and individual consumers who seek all-natural wellness and detoxification supplements with a demonstrated high level of quality and effectiveness. In addition to their use by patients looking to heal disease, the BodyHealth products are also used by sports enthusiasts interested in achieving and maintaining optimal performance. As a 42-time Ironman triathlon finisher, (including 8 appearances at the Ironman World Championships) Dr. Minkoff has first-hand experience to help athletes achieve optimum conditioning. His expertise in protein synthesis, detoxification, and nutrition allow them to run, swim, and bike faster and longer. Today, Dr. Minkoff is an alternative healthcare expert, guest lecturer, writer, tv and radio show guest. He also authors two weekly newsletters, the BodyHealth Fitness Newsletter and the Optimum Health Report.


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