OBJECTIVES: Increasing protein or amino acid intake has been promoted as a promising strategy to increase muscle mass and strength in elderly people, however, long-term intervention studies show inconsistent findings. Therefore, we aim to determine the impact of protein or amino acid supplementation compared to placebo on muscle mass and strength in older adults by combining the results from published trials in a meta-analysis and pooled individual participant data analysis.
DESIGN: We searched Medline and Cochrane databases and performed a meta-analysis on eight available trials on the effect of protein or amino acid supplementation on muscle mass and strength in older adults. Furthermore, we pooled individual data of six of these randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials. The main outcomes were change in lean body mass and change in muscle strength for both the meta-analysis and the pooled analysis.
RESULTS: The meta-analysis of eight studies (n=557) showed no significant positive effects of protein or amino acid supplementation on lean body mass (mean difference: 0.014 kg: 95% CI -0.152; 0.18), leg press strength (mean difference: 2.26 kg: 95% CI -0.56; 5.08), leg extension strength (mean difference: 0.75 kg: 95% CI: -1.96, 3.47) or handgrip strength (mean difference: -0.002 kg: 95% CI -0.182; 0.179). Likewise, the pooled analysis showed no significant difference between protein and placebo treatment on lean body mass (n=412: p=0.78), leg press strength (n=121: p=0.50), leg extension strength (n=121: p=0.16) and handgrip strength (n=318: p=0.37).
CONCLUSIONS: There is currently no evidence to suggest that protein or amino acid supplementation without concomitant nutritional or exercise interventions increases muscle mass or strength in predominantly healthy elderly people.