Why are dairy proteins so important to a balanced diet?

With an ever-increasing elderly population, sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength with age, is becoming a serious global public health problem. Eating more protein such as lean meat, eggs and dairy products can help in the fight against gradual muscle loss. Current guidelines recommend three portions of dairy a day and, as well as keeping muscle robust, a regular intake of dairy products will also keep bones stronger.

Balancing your intake of protein spread throughout the day and keeping your body fueled at an even pace is necessary to keep energy levels steady and build muscle mass. However, you should also consider the source of protein that you are consuming. Beans, such as soy and lentils, are good but it is necessary to eat more in order to gain as much benefit as you would from consuming dairy, which contains the nine essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce itself and is therefore considered nutritionally complete.

Protein is also necessary to help the body synthesize other essential biological compounds. One in particular, glutathione, is an extremely useful antioxidant which can protect against infection and which also plays a role in counteracting diseases associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Simply drinking more milk could raise levels of glutathione in older healthy adults. It could also increase the amount of the amino acid glutamine, which is used by the body to promote healing and improve immune function and is found in large amounts in casein, the main protein found in milk and cheese. Proteins in dairy products could also help with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

You might think a diet rich in protein is only for athletes and bodybuilders but it is particularly important as you get older to eat protein to increase muscle mass. Other benefits include keeping you feeling full for longer and stabilizing blood sugar levels. This, in turn, is helpful in maintaining a good weight, as well as generally boosting energy levels and improving concentration.