Although animal protein is usually considered to be a more potent stimulator of muscle protein synthesis than plant protein, the effect of protein source on lean mass and muscle strength needs to be systematically reviewed. This study aimed to examine potential differences in the effect of animal vs. plant protein on lean mass and muscle strength, and the possible influence of resistance exercise training (RET) and age. The following databases were searched: PubMed, Embase, Scopus and CINAHL Plus with Full Text, and 3081 articles were screened. A total of 18 articles were selected for systematic review, of which, 16 were used for meta-analysis. Total protein intakes were generally above the recommended dietary allowance at the baseline and end of intervention. Results from the meta-analyses demonstrated that protein source did not affect changes in absolute lean mass or muscle strength. However, there was a favoring effect of animal protein on percent lean mass. RET had no influence on the results, while younger adults (<50 years) were found to gain absolute and percent lean mass with animal protein intake (weighted mean difference (WMD), 0.41 kg; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.08 to 0.74; WMD 0.50%; 95% CI 0.00 to 1.01). Collectively, animal protein tends to be more beneficial for lean mass than plant protein, especially in younger adults.

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