Photo/IllutrationThe health ministry will be raising the numerical target for the intake of protein, typically contained in meat and fish, for elderly individuals. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Are older people eating enough protein? Apparently not, according to the government's revised dietary guidelines.

The health ministry decided to raise the target daily protein intake for individuals aged 65 or older as part of measures to prevent frailty.

The revised target, decided March 22, will be included in the 2020 version of the government's Dietary Reference Intakes, which set desirable levels of nutrient intake and other parameters.

Using a rough standard, the new target recommends that the corresponding individual should ingest 1 gram or more of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.

A health ministry panel finalized a report the same day that includes a set of numerical targets and other recommendations.

Current targets recommend that protein constitute 13 to 20 percent of the total energy content of daily food consumption for all age brackets upward of age 1. It will be revised to 15 to 20 percent for age 65 or older on the basis of studies conducted overseas and other material.

Frailty is a transitional state between healthiness and a state requiring nursing care. It involves loss of muscular strength, cognitive functions, ties with society and other aspects. Frail individuals can end up in need of nursing care if nothing is done.

It is believed that light physical exercise, improved diet and other measures are effective for preventing the development of frailty, with insufficient protein intake believed to play a role.

The health ministry has set aside 36 million yen ($320,000) in the fiscal 2019 budget for drawing on the standards to promote measures for preventing frailty. It will organize training sessions for registered dietitians and create brochures and other materials for illustrating matching diet design, officials said.

The government’s Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan says 23 grams of protein is contained in 100 grams of broiler tender. The corresponding protein content per 100 grams of food is 12 grams for hen eggs, 7 grams for regular tofu, 17 grams for “natto” fermented soybeans and 12 grams for fish sausage.

The Dietary Reference Intakes are revised once every five years. The new standards will take effect in April 2020.