Proposal full title: Alternative Proteins for Healthy Ageing

The trend, the urge, and the pressure to eat a more plant-based diet because of sustainability reasons might jeopardize rather than improve the health of older adults. Older adults have increased requirements of high quality dietary proteins. Plant-based protein sources often lack essential amino acids, are less easy to digest and contain less iron and no vitamin B12, which are especially important for older adults. Considering these inadequacies we envisage that a hasty transition to plant-based protein sources could lead to declines in physical and cognitive abilities. The health risks of a protein transition in older adults can be prevented by careful planning. To do this, it is necessary to combine the right plant-based protein sources, so that these complement each other’s limitations and jointly act as a high-quality protein blend. With a vastly increasing supply of meat replacers and other alternative protein sources, the complexity of finding high quality combinations increases every day. This increasing complexity, which is becoming too time consuming for consumers, health care professionals, dietitians and cooks, threatens the acknowledgement of the specific nutritional needs of our older adult population.

We propose the following solution. We will build an interactive application that provides older adults or caregivers with tailored suggestions to guarantee adequate protein quantity and quality during dietary transitions towards plant-based foods. Throughout the whole process, we will be in close contact with a focus group of end-users. This application will be based on a solid, valid and extensive database of protein sources and their characteristics. The database will be built on data that are already available for the consortium partners. Intelligent algorithms will analyse the current

 protein intake of older adults, and present alternatives, which will prevent deficiencies of essential amino acids and vital nutrients. Users enter their characteristics, such as age, gender, length and weight, and they answer questions to assess their risk of developing sarcopenia and protein-energy

 malnutrition. The user can influence the algorithm by setting priorities between muscle anabolism and sustainability, whereby the latter is related to cardiovascular health. Prioritising muscle anabolism is advised during periods of increased risk of muscle wasting, such as illness, surgery and rehabilitation, and in case of increased risks of sarcopenia or malnutrition. When muscle anabolism is the main priority, the application will also advise the use of animal based protein sources. After completing the initial questions, the application is ready for use. The older adults enter in the app what they have consumed per mealtime. The software then calculates if the meals are in compliance with the tailored dietary guidelines. When this is not the case, the application provides three alternatives to improve the meal. Once the user has selected his/her favourite alternative, he/she receives preparation suggestions from a linked recipe database. This selection will be registered by the application, to improve future suggestions of this and other users. All in all, users receive feedback on their current meals, and tailored, easy to implement alternatives to prevent likely deficiencies. In this way, we can safely trust vulnerable older adults to take part in the transition towards sustainable proteins. 

The Active and Assisted Living Programme (AAL Programme) is financed by the European Commission and the 19 Countries that constitute the member states of this Programme (i.e. Denmark, the Netherlands and Romania for Alpha project),This funding activity is implemented by the AAL Association and the funding authorities of its member countries. Romania: Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI) [Unitatea Executiva pentru Finantarea Invatamantului Superior, a Cercetarii, Dezvoltarii si Inovarii]; Denmark: Innovation Fund Denmark; The Netherlands: The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport

Phases and activities

Phase 1 – Analysis of the current state and definition of requirements – 15/11/2021 – 31/12/2021

Phase 2 – Development, testing and validation of the application for users – 01/01/2022 – 15/08/2022
Activity 2.1 Application development for mobile devices
Activity 2.2 Testing and validating the application for mobile devices

Phase 3 – Optimizing the application for mobile devices – 16/08/2022 – 31/12/2022