Meat eaters might happily chew on the findings of a new study out of Japan hinting that eating meat at least every two days during middle age may help maintain independent daily activities when older.
Japanese elderly often live about 7 years with reduced activities of daily living before they die. Therefore, Dr. Yasuyuki Nakamura, at Kyoto Women's University, and colleagues sought to determine whether food intake influenced elders' declining abilities to independently care for themselves.
In their study Nakamura's team assessed meat, fish, and egg intake, and other lifestyle factors, in 1,042 men and 1,274 women. At the start of the study participants were 47 to 59 years old and independently mobile.
The participants had no history of heart disease, which is commonly linked with higher consumption of saturated fatty acids found in meat, the researchers report in the journal Gerontology.
Nineteen years later Nakamura and colleagues assessed activities of daily living, such as independent feeding, dressing, bathing, and mobility, in the study group. During this period, 427 of the participants died and another 75 became dependent due to their inability to care for themselves.
Among the remaining participants, Nakamura and colleagues found eating meat at least twice weekly, compared with less meat consumption, during middle age significantly lessened the risk for impaired physical function.
The researchers did not find the same from eating fish or eggs at least once daily, and noted no impact on mortality from any of the three foods.
These findings held in analyses that allowed for age, gender, smoking, alcohol intake, high blood pressure, diabetes, body mass, blood cholesterol, work history, and area of residence.
Nakamura's team surmises that eating meat at the level reported in this study may help elderly better preserve muscle mass due to increased protein intake which, in turn, may play a role in elders' ability to continue to perform daily activities.