Ageing & Muscle Health

Healthy ageing is becoming more important than ever as it allows us to enjoy longer years of life in good health.

Ageing is associated with a progressive loss of muscle mass (known as sarcopenia) as well as muscle function / strength (dynapenia), which can lower quality of life, and increase the risk of injury and disability. The physiological regulation of skeletal muscle mass is determined and maintained, in large part, by dietary protein intake and muscle contraction. A reduction in dietary protein intake, and a decline in the sensitivity of the muscle to dietary protein are thought to be contributing factors in the development and progression of sarcopenia1, 2.

However, a growing body of research suggests that increasing dietary protein consumption above current recommended amounts can aid in the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass and optimise tissue reconditioning in response to exercise, as noted in both young healthy participants and older adults3. The question arises as to where this additional dietary protein needed by a rapidly ageing global population should come from, animal proteins or alternative non-animal protein sources?

20 Amino Acids

There are a total of 20 amino acids that comprise human muscle protein; nine of which are ‘essential’, meaning they cannot be produced intrinsically by the body in physiologically significant amounts, and therefore must be consumed through diet. For new muscle to be synthesised, all 20 amino acids must be available in adequate amounts.

Research Spotlight: Focus on ageing & muscle maintenance

Quorn mycoprotein is high in fibre and protein, low in total and saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. It is also comparatively low energy relative to other protein sources. This makes it a great addition to an individual’s healthy and balanced diet, whatever their age.

For over 35 years, Quorn has been conducting research on the health benefits of Quorn mycoprotein, collaborating with world-class academic institutions such as the University of Exeter. Exploring the impact of Quorn mycoprotein on healthy ageing and muscle building forms a large part of our ongoing research programme.

What does the science say about Quorn mycoprotein in muscle maintenance for older adults?

Quorn mycoprotein contains all nine essential amino acids (EAAs) in good quantities and is a highly bioavailable source of protein. This makes Quorn mycoprotein a ‘complete protein’, and comparable to more traditional sources of protein such as beef, chicken and fish.

Quorn mycoprotein also has a high PDCAAS (protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score) of 0.9964. PDCAAS is a method of evaluating the quality of a protein based on both the amino acid requirements of humans and their ability to digest that particular protein. To put this into context, beef has a score of 0.92 and soy has a score of 0.915. For more information, visit our Amino Acid Lowdown Factsheet by clicking here.

Animal-derived dietary protein sources, such as whey, milk and egg have all been shown to stimulate post-exercise muscle protein synthesis rates, and non-animal dietary protein sources have been assumed by many to be inferior in their capacity to stimulate muscle protein synthesis rates1. This has been due to their typically slower digestibility, lower bioavailability, and lower essential amino acid and leucine content. However, recent research has shown Quorn mycoprotein to be an effective protein source, stimulating muscle protein synthesis rates in resting and exercised muscle of young males6. This research builds on previous findings by Dunlop et al2. For a more detailed breakdown of the study, visit our blog post here.

Following these interesting findings in young, healthy males, the research team at the University of Exeter carried out a study to explore the potential for Quorn mycoprotein in supporting healthy and active skeletal muscle in older adults. In this study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, 19 healthy, older adults participated in a randomised controlled trial during which they consumed a 3-day high protein diet, matched for calories, where protein was from either predominantly (71%) animal protein or exclusively vegan (57% mycoprotein). Results showed that over 3 days of intervention, protein muscle synthesis rates did not differ between the animal and vegan groups, demonstrating that Quorn mycoprotein supports rested and exercised daily muscle rates in healthy older adults to the same degree as an omnivorous diet containing a high proportion of animal protein3. As such, Quorn mycoprotein can be utilised as a high-quality protein in the diet of older individuals.

Subsequently, a review of the potential for alternative dietary protein sources to support healthy and active skeletal muscle ageing was conducted by the researchers at the University of Exeter7. The review assessed the current evidence for the use of alternative protein sources (plants, fungi, insects, algae and lab-grown ‘meat’) to support skeletal muscle in active, older adults, concluding positively on their future utility. Whilst more research is clearly necessary, data are starting to shed light on how future dietary protein recommendations to support healthy ageing could incorporate non-animal protein alternatives.

Incorporating Quorn mycoprotein into a dietary plan

Due to a limited range of non-animal protein sources having been investigated in the past, there has long been a common misconception that animal-based protein sources were superior for muscle tissue synthesis. However, as recent research has demonstrated, Quorn mycoprotein can stimulate resting and post-exercise muscle protein synthesis rates in young and older adults3, 6. Regular physical activity alongside adequate protein intake is key to maintaining healthy skeletal muscle mass, providing the stimulus to maintain both muscle quality and quantity.

Based on the current evidence, for those older adults choosing to eat omnivorous, vegetarian or vegan diets, as well as those who would like to reduce meat-intake, Quorn mycoprotein can be suggested as an effective and beneficial protein source. Thanks to its meat-like texture, it’s easy to swap out meat for Quorn in traditional favourites such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Chilli or Tikka Curry and can feature in heart-healthy recipes too. Further resources and recipes are available from HEART UK The Cholesterol Charity, including this recipe for Quorn paella.

Want to know what experts we work with? Click here to go to our dedicated Meet The Experts page.

Last updated February 2023. Next review due February 2025

  • 1 Wall, B.T., Gorissen, S.H., Pennings, B., Koopman, R., Groen, B.B.L., Verdijk, L.B. and van Loon, L.J.C. (2015). Aging Is Accompanied by a Blunted Muscle Protein Synthetic Response to Protein Ingestion. PLOS ONE, [online] 10(11), p.e0140903. Available at:
  • 2 Dunlop, M., Kilroe, S., Bowtell, J., Finnigan, T., Salmon, D. and Wall, B. (2017). Quorn mycoprotein represents a bioavailable and insulinotropic non-animal-derived dietary protein source: a dose-response study. British Journal Nutrition. [online]. 118(9), pp.673-685. Available at:
  • 3 Monteyne, A.J., Dunlop, M.V., Machin, D.J., Coelho, M.O., Pavis, G.F., Porter, C., Murton, A.J., Abdelrahman, D.R., Dirks, M.L., Stephens, F.B. and Wall, B.T. (2020). A mycoprotein-based high-protein vegan diet supports equivalent daily myofibrillar protein synthesis rates compared with an isonitrogenous omnivorous diet in older adults: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition. [online]. pp.1-11. Available at:
  • 4 Edwards, D. and Cummings, J. (2010). The protein quality of Quorn mycoprotein. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. [online]. 69(OCE4). Available at:
  • 5 Schaafsma, G. (2000). The Protein Digestibility–Corrected Amino Acid Score. The Journal of Nutrition, [online] 130(7), pp.1865S1867S. Available:
  • 6 Monteyne, A., Coelho, M., Porter, C., Abdelrahman, D., Jameson, T., Jackman, S., Blackwell, J., Finnigan, T., Stephens, F., Dirks, M. and Wall, B., 2020. Quorn mycoprotein ingestion stimulates protein synthesis rates to a greater extent than milk protein in rested and exercised skeletal muscle of healthy young men: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. [online]. 112(2), pp.318-333. Available at:
  • 7 Van der Heijden, I., Monteyne, A.J., Stephens, F.B. and Wall, B.T. (2022). Alternative dietary protein sources to support healthy and active skeletal muscle aging. Nutrition Reviews, [online] 81(2), pp.206–230. Available at:

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