Nancy Rodriguez, Professor/PhD, RDN, FACSM

Nutritional Sciences
University of Connecticut

Protein's Role in Mitigating Nutrition Risk in Older Adults

As an essential nutrient, protein has a pivotal role in optimizing nutrition status and muscle health. Muscle protein balance, the difference between muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown, dictates maintenance of muscle mass, strength, and function. Chronic negative muscle protein balance decreases muscle mass; a scenario associated with the increased prevalence of sarcopenia in older men and women. When coupled with insufficient protein and calorie intake, nutrition status as well as muscle health is negatively impacted, and nutrition risks amplified. This presentation will focus on the significance of dietary protein quantity and protein quality with specific regard for muscle health and mitigating nutrition risk in older adults. The scientific basis for consensus recommendations for higher protein intake in the context of healthy aging and the critical role of protein quality in the framework of healthy eating patterns and lifestyles for longevity will be highlighted.  Approaches to achieve recommended protein intakes, meet essential amino acid requirements, and optimize energy status to diminish nutrition risks in older populations will be considered.  

Session Learning Objectives. 

Following this presentation attendees will:

1. Appreciate difference between protein requirements and protein recommendations for older men and women.

2. Understand significance of protein quality to muscle health in older adults. 

3. Recognize dietary protein's role as nutrient dense food in dietary patterns designed to mitigate nutrition risk in aging.


Speaker/Chair Bio:

Nancy Rodriguez is a Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut where she served as Director of Sports Nutrition in the Division of Athletics for 17 years (2000-2017). A University of Connecticut Teaching Fellow, she established Nutrition for Exercise and Sport academic program and had a leadership role in merging the Medical Nutrition Therapy curriculum in the Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Allied Health Sciences.  Dr. Rodriguez served on the Board of Trustees for the American College of Sports Medicine (2017-2020), completed a 3-year appointment (2014-2016) to the Science Board for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport and Nutrition, and was a member of the Sports Nutrition Advisory Board for Danone USA (2020-2021). Dr. Rodriguez’s research initiatives in protein, exercise, and health, earned her international recognition. Her work contributed to establishing approaches to weight management in children and young adults, and protein recommendations for athletes. Her current research endeavors focus on relationships between protein quantity, protein quality, and muscle health with specific regard for healthy aging and rehabilitative nutrition.  Dr. Rodriguez received her B.S. in Human Nutrition and Foods at Virginia Tech, earned her MS in nutrition and PhD in biochemistry at West Virginia University and completed an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Rodriguez is an active member of the American Society of Nutrition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American College of Sports Medicine.