Nutrients are substances that our body requires so that they may function properly. They comprise carbs, vitamins, lipids, proteins, and water. Good nutrition is crucial no matter what your age is. It helps you to gain energy and regulate your weight, and it may assist in avoiding certain disorders such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes. heart issues and even certain cancers. But with aging, the requirement for certain nutrients changes. How does it affect our whole health, and how to cope with all the nutritional needs as we age? This will all be covered in this article.
Aging & Nutritional Changes
It has been studied vastly that several bodily changes are related to aging, including muscle atrophy, skin thinning, and decreased stomach acid. Some of these changes may make you more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies, while others may impair your senses and life quality. Some individuals may need more water when their feeling of thirst diminishes with age. This might be challenging due to the fact that as we age, in addition to the physiological and psychological changes that occur, our preferences, as well as our nutritional requirements, change.
According to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Aging, 1 in 4 seniors in the United States suffers from nutritional deficiencies.
Here are some of the significant nutritional modifications that happen as we grow older.
1. Reduced Appetite
15 to 30 % of elderly people have appetite loss. Reduced appetite hinders older adults from getting adequate nutrition. In a short study with 11 seniors and 11 young individuals, researchers discovered that seniors had lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin before a meal. Several studies have indicated that the elderly had greater amounts of cholecystokinin and leptin, which hinders food intake and leads to malnutrition. (2)
A further drawback of aging is a reduced caloric need. This, unfortunately, poses dietary difficulty. It has been proven that we lose energy as we age because our metabolism slows down. Men over the age of 50 need around 2000 calories per day, while women need about 1600 calories per day (down from 2200 calories for men aged 31-50 and 1800 for women aged 31-50).
2. Physiological Changes
Changes in physiology, such as taste, smell, and the capacity to chew and swallow, may have an effect on the meals we prefer. Previously preferred foods may no longer be liked. Age-related decline in the body’s capacity to perceive vital sensations such as hunger and thirst is a potential concern. Dehydration and weight loss are also possible side effects of this. And the results may be much more severe as you get older. Allowing for dietary alterations and being open to new tastes and experiences are important.
3. Absorption Changes
As we age, our capacity to digest and absorb nutrients decreases, which has a direct impact on the number of particular nutrients we need. There is an overall decrease in our ability to fight off illness, as well as an overall decrease in muscle mass and bone density as we age. Studies suggest that 20% of elderly people have atrophic gastritis, a disorder in which the cells that create stomach acid have been destroyed by persistent inflammation. This low stomach acid affects the absorption of B12, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Consuming efficiently is essential to counteracting these natural processes.
The same is for the case of Vitamin D, aging skin may convert sunlight less efficiently than younger skin. That affects calcium absorption.
4. Diseases Concerns
Chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, are common among the elderly, necessitating pharmaceutical management. These drugs have the potential to alter not just the flavour of food but also its digestion, absorption, metabolism, and excretion. These disorders and treatments may also reduce appetite, interfere with regular eating, impact how the body uses nutrients, and raise nutritional and calorie demands. Medical professionals, such as doctors and nutritionists, may assist you in determining which drugs may cause these side effects and in formulating a plan to address them.
5. Fat Accumulation
It is possible that calorie requirements for weight maintenance are lower in the elderly because of reduced activity and muscle mass. As we know, height, weight, muscle mass, exercise level, and other variables affect calorie demands. Maintaining the same daily caloric intake as when you were younger may easily lead to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, known as central obesity, which is very common in postmenopausal elderly women. As it has been studied that declining estrogen levels may encourage abdominal fat storage.
Depression may strike everyone, regardless of age, although its prevalence increases with age. It is a key risk factor for unplanned weight loss and malnutrition among aged people. Low income, lack of social support, retirement, and persistent physical conditions make seniors prone to depression. It may also be challenging to maintain a healthy eating habits when there are changes in the dynamic of the family, such as when a loved one passes away. Low potassium levels may result in disorientation, melancholy, neurological problems, and unpredictable conduct in older persons.
6. Changes Due to Oral Health
Seniors have particular dental health concerns. These factors may make eating difficult. Such as, if dentures don’t fit properly, a person may develop unhealthy eating habits and malnutrition. These oral health issues, such as difficulties chewing or swallowing due to missing teeth or gum disease. Chewing certain meals, such as meats, vegetables, and nuts, may be painful and difficult if teeth are broken or missing and may negatively impact food intake, resulting in insufficient nutrition and an increased risk of malnutrition. Mouth infections are another potential source of pain and discomfort.
Managing Nutritional Needs
You may not be getting all the nutrients you need now, even if you’ve always had a balanced diet throughout your 20s, 30s, and 40s. Moderate consumption of whole foodstuffs and taking a supplement will help you reach your nutritional requirements. Nutritional requirements differ from individual to person. However, there are ways that may assist everyone in maintaining a healthy diet.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the elderly should pay particular attention to their calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, potassium, and fibre consumption along with other nutritional-rich foods.
Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) gauges food quality. With an HEI score of 63 out of 100, older adults had the greatest quality diet compared to other age groups. Despite the fact that this is quite positive, there is still a great deal of room for improvement.
Eat fewer calories
Compared to younger individuals, older people have decreased calorie demands but equivalent or even greater nutritional needs. But if you’re gaining weight on the same diet you’ve always followed, or if you’re just not as hungry as you once were, you may want to reduce your calorie intake. Cell Metabolism magazine reported that reducing calorie consumption by 15% over two years may reduce aging and protect against cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Know Your Fats
It has been recommended to choose foods low in saturated fat to minimize your risk of cardiovascular disease. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are predominantly found in nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils, and seafood, should make up the majority of your fat intake. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, older men and women should consume between 20 and 35 % of their daily calories from fat. For example, in the case:
- A sedentary male should take between 44 and 78 grams of fat daily.
- A sedentary woman should eat between 36 and 62 g of fat daily.
In order to reduce fat intake from commercial foods, start by reading labels more carefully – certain processed or packaged foods contain excess fats, so avoiding them and choosing healthier packaged items can help. Be careful while cooking since butter and oils contribute a lot of fat. Choose low-fat or healthy-fat meat and dairy, such as oily fish, over a fatty pig.
With aging, there is an evident loss of muscle mass known as sarcopenia, which reduces mass up to 2-8% per decade of life (check out this article about muscles). Consuming lots of protein may assist the body in preserving muscle mass and combating sarcopenia. Three-year research monitored 2,066 seniors. Those who ate the most protein daily lost 40% less muscle mass.
10-35% of daily calories should consist of protein from meat, poultry, fish, legumes, and dairy products, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Protein and geriatric specialists advise elderly adults to consume between 1.2 and 2.0 g/kg/day of protein or more (That’s 69-81 g for a woman weighing 150 pounds or 81-98 g for a man weighing 180 pounds.).
For more information on proteins, check out this summarized article.
Some example protein sources:
|One serving of lean meat, chicken, pig, or fish/ 3 Oz||21 gram|
|5 oz Greek yoghurt||12-18 grams|
|1 cup of beans||6-9 grams|
|8 Oz of dairy milk||8 grams|
|9 Oz of soy milk||7 grams|
|2 tbsp Peanut butter||7 grams|
|1/4 cup nuts||4-6 grams|
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids lessen heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure and triglycerides, according to studies. Research also indicates that consuming diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may aid in maintaining brain health as we age. It has also been proved in studies that Long-chain omega-3 PUFAs may reduce co-morbidities in elderly persons. PUFAs impact inflammation, hyperlipidemia, platelet aggregation, and hypertension. To get more Omega-3s quickly:
- Include cold-water fish in your diet, such as salmon, tuna, and trout.
- Sprinkle flaxseed over Greek yoghurt.
- Consume a handful of walnuts as a snack.
The recommended daily dosage usually depends on the supplement’s intended purpose. However, the majority of health organisations concur that 250–500 mg of EPA and DHA is sufficient for older adults to maintain their health.
Higher dosages are frequently prescribed for specific health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (15g and blood pressure (2g). This dietary supplement can be taken every day for months or even years.
Fibre lowers cholesterol, preventing heart disease. Some seniors may decrease their cholesterol by eating beans, oats, barley, almonds, and walnuts. High-fibre diets may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Get 14 grams/1,000 calories of fibre daily from fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. The Institute of Medicine advises fibre intake to be 28 g/day for men and 22 g/day for women.
What foods contain more fibre? Learn from this article.
Add Calcium & Vitamin D
Although you may need fewer calories, it does not mean that you require fewer nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are just as important for the elderly as they are for anybody else (and may even need certain nutrients).
To preserve bone health, those older than 70 years need more calcium and vitamin D than they did when they were younger. It is suggested that,
- Choose calcium-rich meals and drinks and aim for three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products to achieve these requirements. Additional sources of calcium include fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, soft-boned tinned fish, and fortified plant-based drinks.
- Eggs, fatty fish such as salmon, and fortified meals and drinks are sources of vitamin D.
Men and women should get 600 IU of vitamin D daily through fish, egg yolks, fortified meals, and supplements. Choose a calcium supplement or multivitamin with vitamin D if you take one. Calcium in the diet is necessary for bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women under 50 and men under 70 consume 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. Men and women over this age should consume 1,200 milligrams each day.
The consumption of nutritious meals should be the primary focus of the elderly nutritional diet, with supplements serving a supportive but complementary function. Getting adequate B12, vitamin D, and calcium is very necessary, along with nutrition.
- Vitamin B6: As one ages, the quantity of vitamin B-6 required rises as this vitamin produces red blood cells. It maintains brain-and-nerve-cell interconnections. Diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss are treated with vitamin B6. It may prevent eye problems, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Males need 1.7 milligrams daily, while females require 1.5 milligrams. To get to from food, it is found in beef liver, chicken breasts, fish, non-citrus fruits, potatoes, and starchy vegetables.
- Vitamin B12: As we age, our systems may have difficulty breaking down and absorbing foods that contain B12, therefore, it’s probable that older people may need B12 supplements. Vegetarians and vegans are at risk for vitamin B12 insufficiency since the nutrient is confined to animal-based diets. The NIH advises that people over 50 obtain the majority of their vitamin B12 via supplements or fortified foods. Older people may need vitamin B12 doses above the RDA.
- Vitamin C: The immune system declines with age, rendering adults prone to colds and pneumonia. This vitamin supports the aging immune system by promoting white blood cell synthesis. Vitamin C improves heart health, which is vital for seniors. Vitamin C decreases blood pressure by relaxing blood arteries and decreasing cholesterol. 400 mg of vitamin C daily may be beneficial for older people at risk for chronic illnesses.
- Magnesium: Magnesium needs remain constant throughout life. Magnesium-rich meals might be difficult to digest, leading to low magnesium intake and levels in seniors. But taking magnesium supplements has been shown in a great number of studies to help lower blood pressure. It is suggested by experts keep a good magnesium intake.
- Potassium: Potassium is an essential nutrient for their diet since it may aid in bone health. In seniors, potassium depletion manifests as weariness, muscular weakness, cramps, bone fragility, nausea, vomiting, and elevated blood sugar. A greater potassium intake reduces the risk of high blood pressure, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and heart disease in the elderly. Dietary potassium intake for people, including seniors, is advised by experts to be 4.7g per day.
- Protein supplement: A review of 20 recent research involving the elderly indicated that consuming extra protein or using protein supplements may delay the pace of muscle loss, enhance muscle mass, and aid in muscle building.
- Multivitamin: Seniors should also consider multivitamin supplements. A good multivitamin supplement might contain many of these vitamins, along with small amounts of necessary minerals. Look for supplements containing acceptable levels of magnesium, potassium, sodium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
- Probiotics: Because elderly individuals have very few friendly bacteria, which makes them more prone to gut-related diseases such as IBD, bloating, diarrhoea, and indigestion, it’s safe and beneficial for them to consume live probiotic cultures. Yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, etc. (see this article for probiotics food) naturally contain probiotics or have them added. There are also probiotic supplements in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, or liquids to guarantee enough ingestion.
Learn more about such supplements and their health benefits in this article.
It is always the best idea for the people who want to use dietary supplements to maintain their health to consult a physician.
|Nutrients||Recommended daily dosage (RDA)|
|Calcium||Over-50 women require 1,200 mg/day.
Men require 1,000 mg between 51 and 70 and 1,200 mg beyond 70, but not 2,000 mg a day.
|Magnesium||for adults 51 and older are 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women.|
|Omega 3 fatty acids||250 mg or above|
|Potassium||4.7g per day.|
|Vitamin D||600 IU for adults 51 to 70, 800 IU for those over 70, but no more than 4,000 IU per day.|
|Vitamin B6||1.7 mg for men and 1.5 mg for women each day|
|Vitamin B12||2.4 mcg (micrograms) each day.|
|Vitamin C||400 mg/day|
Because the sense of thirst diminishes with age, it may be difficult for older adults to consume enough fluids to keep hydrated. Water is an excellent method to avoid dehydration and aid digestion, and it does not contribute any calories. Also, remember that water may be obtained through other drinks and even meals. Consume seltzer or herbal teas without caffeine, or infuse simple water with your favourite fruits. Examples of foods having a high-water content such as watermelon, cucumbers, lettuce, and berries. It is recommended that older adults drink at least 1.7 litres each day.
Additionally, unsweetened fruit juices, low-fat or fat-free milk, and fortified soy drinks may assist in satisfying fluid and nutritional requirements.
If older individuals drink alcohol, they should limit themselves to 2 drinks a day for males and 1 for women. The best is to avoid it, as this group may experience the effects of alcohol faster than when they were younger, increasing the risk of falls and other mishaps. Excess alcohol also causes sleep difficulties, drug interactions, nutritional loss, and dehydration, especially in diuretic users. Read this article to learn more about alcohol and health.
Healthy eating is important at every age. But with time, the number of nutrients we need and our body’s ability to process them can change. As you age, you may need more vitamin D and calcium for bone health, more B12 for brain and blood health, and more fibre for a healthy digestive system. It’s essential to consult your healthcare team when deciding on your nutrition plan. But most people get all the essential nutrients from a well-rounded diet-rich diet of vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins as recommended in Us Dietary guidelines. Follow the above-mentioned steps to reach your goal for healthy, well-balanced aging and to Prime with Time!