The Recovery Diet: Protein and its role in chronic disease

It’s been a while… again. Oddly enough, the world of blogging pulls me back in, often in the most unexpected times: amidst a global pandemic, in the middle of some of my heaviest projects, and in the peak of the west coast summer.

To say I’ve been putting this blog on the back-burner once more would be an understatement. It seems that there are always too many mountains to climb, too many camping trips to plan, and too many bike rides to go on. Staying inside during the summer is difficult for me, and with Work from Home in full swing ( aside from lab days), my days have been desk-heavy, research-based, and I find myself focusing for hours, but my in the back of my mind, always itching to get outside to enjoy the fresh air.

For many of us, summertime means fresh fruits, farmers markets, and relaxing by some body of water to beat the heat. It often also comes with altered dietary habits: more ice-cream, maybe more treats at picnics and potlucks, and sometimes a more lax attitude about many things in life.

For me, this summer has been about adventure. I’ve been making the most of the long days: from epic bike trips on the Sunshine Coast, to kayaking up the Indian Arm, I’ve been trying my best to fully take in the beauty of the landscape, here in British Columbia.

With more activity and more action, properly fueling my body has been a big focus for me this summer. I have been more cognizant about how I feel during bursts of exercise, what my body needs to power through tough challenges, and have also been aware of the recovery foods that my body needs to be ready for the next adventure.

When it comes to foods that aid in recovery, most of us know that protein plays a big part. Amino acids help rebuild and restore muscles, and are key players in our overall health and well-being on a day to day basis. Protein was, and continues to be, a hot topic in nutrition research. It is heavily debated, discussed and questioned – but one thing is certain: we all need dietary protein, at least some form and amount of it, anyway.

Fitness fanatics have long emphasized and touted the pertinence of consuming sufficient amounts of dietary protein for optimal athletic performance and recovery. These intake amounts are still debated in the field of nutrition. Now, researchers are re-evaluating protein requirements not only in health, but also in sickness.

Dr. Carla Prado and her team of researchers at the University of Alberta are investigating the potential benefits of a high-protein diet for muscle mass, as well as for overall body weight retention in late-stage colorectal cancer patients through dietitian-led meal planning and 24-hour patient monitoring.

The Prado study, also known as the “PRIMe” (Protein Recommendation to Increase Muscle) study, focuses on colorectal cancer specifically as it is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in both men and women in Canada. As patients undergo treatment for their late-stage colorectal cancer, side-effects include fatigue and lack of appetite. With a decreased dietary intake related to the aforementioned side-effects, patients often struggle to meet their protein needs, which can make battling the disease even more challenging.

“Our study focuses on protein intake in the cancer population because we know that preserving muscle mass can have a meaningful positive impact on the person with cancer’s health,” said Prado. “We hope that it will improve their physical function, their tolerance to cancer treatment, among others.”

The study aims to investigate how calorically adequate diets with varying protein amounts can affect overall body composition in stages 2–4 colorectal cancer patients.

One group of participants in the study consumes one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, whereas the other consumes two times that amount. The research team then monitors the patient’s caloric output around the clock. The goal is to better understand what effect varying protein intake levels have on body composition in cancer-stricken patients.

What makes this research unique is that no other study has examined 24-hour energy expenditure in diagnosed cancer patients thus far. As ideal protein in-takes for maximum muscle retention in cancer patients are yet to be firmly defined, it is evident that the PRIMe study will shed new light on a disease that many Canadians battle each year.

4 thoughts on “The Recovery Diet: Protein and its role in chronic disease

  1. What a nice surprise! Great to have you back in my in-box Sina. Not sure why, but the pictures didn’t download. Will ask M. To share. Xox

    1. Hi Penny! It’s been a while – life gets busy, I guess! I’m trying to get back on the blogging train, or at least, find an outlet where I can write about interesting nutrition-based research. Food science has been taking up most of my brain these days! Hope you’re well 🙂

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