Protein supplementation is an attractive strategy to prevent loss of muscle mass in older adults. However, it could be counterproductive due to adverse effects on appetite. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine the effects of protein supplementation on appetite and/or energy intake (EI) in healthy older adults. MEDLINE,

The Cochrane Library, CINAHL, and Web of Science were searched up to June 2020. Acute and longitudinal studies in healthy adults ≥60 y of age that reported effects of protein supplementation (through supplements or whole foods) compared with control and/or preintervention (for longitudinal studies) on appetite ratings, appetite-related peptides, and/or EI were included.

Random-effects model meta-analysis was performed on EI, with other outcomes qualitatively reviewed. Twenty-two studies (9 acute, 13 longitudinal) were included, involving 857 participants (331 males, 526 females). In acute studies (n = 8), appetite ratings were suppressed in 7 out of 24 protein arms.

For acute studies reporting EI (n = 7, n = 22 protein arms), test meal EI was reduced following protein preload compared with control [mean difference (MD): -164 kJ; 95% CI: -299, -29 kJ; P = 0.02]. However, when energy content of the supplement was accounted for, total EI was greater with protein compared with control (MD: 649 kJ; 95% CI: 438, 861 kJ; P < 0.00001).

Longitudinal studies (n = 12 protein arms) showed a higher protein intake (MD: 0.29 g ⋅ kg-1 ⋅ d-1; 95% CI: 0.14, 0.45 g ⋅ kg-1 ⋅ d-1; P < 0.001) and no difference in daily EI between protein and control groups at the end of trials (MD: -54 kJ/d; 95% CI: -300, 193 kJ/d; P = 0.67).

While appetite ratings may be suppressed with acute protein supplementation, there is either a positive effect or no effect on total EI in acute and longitudinal studies, respectively.

Therefore, protein supplementation may represent an effective solution to increase protein intakes in healthy older adults without compromising EI through appetite suppression. This trial was registered at PROSPERO as (CRD42019125771).

Keywords: aging; appetite; energy intake; gut hormones; hunger; older adults; protein.