Just like children do not have the same nutrition needs as adults, older adults have different nutrition needs. And there is no definition for “older adults”. In my practice I define it as over 60. Both the science and my observation as a nutrition consultant show that as people age fewer calories are needed. But at the same time the same amount of protein as well as fiber and fluid are required for health. Further complicating requirements are the changes that occur in absorption, utilization, and excretion of nutrients.
Calorie Needs: As we age, metabolism slows, but nutrient requirements do not. Furthermore, older individual becomes less active, reducing their needs even more.
Proteins: They are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. They help the body build and repair cells and tissues and are a major component of skin, muscle, bone, organs, hair and nails. All adults lose muscle as they age. Muscle, just like bone, is always remodeling – breaking down and rebuilding. Adequacy is needed to sustain the muscle we have, particularly skeletal muscle, to sustain mobility and strength. Since older adults need to eat less to sustain their optimal weight the percent of protein relative to total calories increases.
Micronutrients: As we age, absorption may diminish. In addition, since less food is needed, fewer micronutrients are present in the diet. Though supplement recommendations need to be individualized, in my practice
I often recommend that patients take a full spectrum multiple, plus calcium, magnesium, omega-fats and whatever other micronutrients may be needed for optimal health.
Diversity: All individuals need diversity of foods selected for health promotion.
With age, cognitive function, mobility, vitality, and sensory function decline. And there is no “magic pill”. As a registered dietitian in private practice, my belief is that improving the quality of life is as important as extending the lifespan of my patients.
If you want to live longer and healthier, researchers agree that nutritional factors have a major impact on prolonging life and enhancing the quality of life.
More Resources and Downloads:
- Institute of Medicine (US) Food Forum. Providing Healthy and Safe Foods As We Age: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. 5, Nutrition Concerns for Aging Populations.
- Nutrition for Healthy Aging
- Healthy Diet for Healthy Aging
- Healthy Aging and Dietary Patterns
- Protein Requirements for Seniors
By Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN
Vol. 25 No. 2 P. 22