Oxford University Press, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1(114), p. 29-41, 2021
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ABSTRACT Background Dietary protein may slow the decline in muscle mass and function with aging, making it a sensible candidate to prevent or modulate disability progression. At present, studies providing reliable estimates of the association between protein intake and physical function, and its interaction with physical activity (PA), in community-dwelling older adults are lacking. Objectives We investigated the longitudinal relation between protein intake and physical function, and the interaction with PA. Methods We undertook a pooled analysis of individual participant data from cohorts in the PROMISS (PRevention Of Malnutrition In Senior Subjects in the European Union) consortium (the Health Aging and Body Composition Study, Quebec Longitudinal Study on Nutrition and Successful Aging, Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, and Newcastle 85+) in which 5725 community-dwelling older adults were followed up to 8.5 y. The relation between protein intake and walking speed was determined using joint models (linear mixed-effects and Cox proportional hazards models) and the relation with mobility limitation was investigated using multistate models. Results Higher protein intake was modestly protective of decline in walking speed in a dose-dependent manner [e.g., protein intake ≥1.2 compared with 0.8 g/kg adjusted body weight (aBW)/d: β = 0.024, 95% CI: 0.009, 0.032 SD/y], with no clear indication of interaction with PA. Participants with protein intake ≥0.8 g/kg aBW/d had also a lower likelihood of incident mobility limitation, which was observed for each level of PA. This association seemed to be dose-dependent for difficulty walking but not for difficulty climbing stairs. No associations between protein intake and other mobility limitations transitions were observed. Conclusions Higher daily protein intake can reduce physical function decline not only in older adults with protein intake below the current RDA of 0.8 g/kg BW/d, but also in those with a protein intake that is already considered sufficient. This dose-dependent association was observed for each level of PA, suggesting no clear synergistic association between protein intake and PA in relation to physical function.