The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) defines the metabolic syndrome (MS) as the co-occurrence of any three of the five following abnormalities : abdominal obesity (waist circumference
94 cm in men and
80 in women), dyslipidemia (triglyceridemia
1.5 mmol/l, HDL cholesterol
0.4 g/l in men and
0.5 g/l in women), blood pressure (BP)
130/85 and/or medical treatment, and fasting glycemia
5.55 mmol/l and/or medical treatment [1
]. MS is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases [2
] and prevalence of type 2 diabetes [3
]. In developed countries, its increasing prevalence is mainly linked to obesity and age [4
The most efficient strategy to counteract MS is a significant reduction in caloric intake associated with an increase in physical activity (PA). Such programmes aim primarily to reduce overweight, the most visible manifestation of MS, but the challenge is to reduce the fat mass without affecting lean body mass, especially in senior, for whom a progressive loss of muscle mass and strength is a natural phenomenon [5
], even in those who are healthy and physically active [6
]. In addition, the recovery of skeletal muscle mass in ageing people is impaired after a catabolic state [7
]. Physical exercise and an adequate protein intake are of prime importance in preventing muscle loss. However, there is no consensus on the adequate level of protein intake in the case of senior patients undergoing a combined treatment of caloric restriction and physical activity (PA) for MS. In these patients, age, exercise and energy restriction increase protein requirement.
The recommended dietary protein allowance (RDA) for the general population has been set at 0.8 g/kg/day [9
]. RDA is defined as the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy individuals. RDA corresponds to the mean lower threshold intake (LTI) of a panel of healthy people plus two standard deviations, including 97.5% of the population, and is calculated as 1.3 LTI day [9
Some guidelines recommend increasing RDA to 1.0–1.3 g/kg/day in senior [11
PA increases the need for proteins whatever the age of the subject [9
], and this specificity must be taken into account in senior people [14
Total energy intake has a protein sparing effect [16
]. Conversely insufficient energy intake will increase the protein needed to compensate for the energy deficit. As skeletal muscle is the main storage site of body proteins and amino acids, this will lead to an undesirable reduction of muscle mass [19
]. Excessive protein intake is of no value, in particular because it will over-exert the kidney [20
] and increase the end products of protein metabolism (urea and uric acid). It will also increase the intake of undesirable saturated fatty acids via proteins of animal origin [21
]. The precautionary principle is to bear this factor in mind in senior patients, since age-related renal insufficiency is common [22
], especially in people with elevated BP [23
] and/or dyslipidemia [24
], which is often the case in subjects with MS.
The challenge for the prescriber is to give neither too much nor too little protein, in order to preserve the muscle mass without inducing harmful effects on the kidney in older subjects with MS.
Our aim in the present study was to assess the minimal need for proteins in a population of senior MS subjects. There are a limited number of tools to assess the appropriate level of protein intake. One way is to control preservation of muscle mass over a long period, but this can only be done in animal studies for ethical reasons. Nitrogen balance studies are probably the gold standard, but they are rather cumbersome to perform. Monitoring the levels of albumin, the blood marker of protein metabolism homeostasis, seems to be the most convenient index and was chosen for this study. Moreover, albumin levels are closely linked to morbidity, and represent a large consensus to assess nutritional status [25
]. We decided to determine protein LTI by recording albumin levels in older subjects with MS participating in a weight reduction programme including exercise and energy restriction. The programme comprised two parts: a three-week residential programme during which subjects stayed in a medical establishment on a controlled diet with regular PA, and a six-month follow-up at home.