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Food and health

Older Australians are eating more protein: Secondary analysis of the 1995 & 2011/12 national nutrition surveys



Diet is important in healthy ageing. Protein is essential for physical function, immunity, maintaining quality of life and ability to live independently.


Protein intakes, sources and the protein content of meals and snacks among adults aged ≥65 years from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (n = 1960) and the 2011/12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (n = 2103) were examined. Usual protein intakes were estimated using the National Cancer Institute method, and intakes and adequacy were compared between the two surveys.


Participants reported a higher total protein intake in 2011/12 than 1995 (81.0 vs. 73.4 g, p < 0.001). Mean protein intake per kg body weight (1995, 1.0 g/kg vs. 2011/12, 1.1 g/kg) and ability to meet the Australian (1995, 85% vs. 2011/12, 88%) and World Health Organisation (1995, 90% vs. 2011/12, 94%) protein requirements increased over time. Males >70 years or those with poor self-assessed health status were more likely to report inadequate protein intake compared with other respondents. Higher protein intake was associated with greater consumption of vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat and alternatives and lower consumption of discretionary foods and alcohol. Participants obtained 17% of their protein intake from breakfast, 30% from lunch, 43% from dinner and 10% from snacks. Main protein sources included lean red meat, poultry and full cream milk.


Specific dietary advice for older Australians, particularly older men and those with poor health, to promote healthy food choices with adequate protein content is needed for disease prevention and maintenance of quality of life.

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Correspondence to Fiona O’Leary.

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O’Leary, F., Grech, A., Sui, Z. et al. Older Australians are eating more protein: Secondary analysis of the 1995 & 2011/12 national nutrition surveys. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 588–597 (2020).

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