Seniors May Need to Boost Their Diet
~ September 1999 No.80 ~
Everyone needs to eat smart. Choosing wisely with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods in the diet. That provides a sound basis for good health. Furthermore, as we are learning, it may be wise to increase our intake of certain foods and nutrients because of their ability to fight disease and infection. Even the most careful consumer may not be able to get enough of certain nutrients, just because they aren’t in high enough quantities in any one food or food group. This may be particularly true for seniors. That’s where supplements come in.
As we grow older, we become less active, our metabolism slows down, and our appetite changes. It is generally believed that part of the drop off in appetite has to do with the decrease in sensitivity of our taste buds. It"s hard to get excited about a meal when things just don"t taste like they used to. Added to this is the negative impact of eating alone - the unfortunate reality for all too many seniors. And then, of course, there is the older widower who just never learned to shop and cook for himself. These and other factors help to explain why trying to meet acceptable nutrient intakes may be a challenge for many elders.
Most nutrition surveys that have been carried out on the elderly have not found many overt signs of deficiency of any one nutrient, but rather a general decline in the energy intake. This is because seniors just eat less. Slower paced lifestyle and lean body mass are two factors which affect overall food intake. However, because their total intake is less, seniors also run the risk of having low intakes of protein and many micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
An additional factor of concern for elders is possible drug - nutrient interactions. Prescription drug use is common in the elderly; many drugs alter metabolism or affect digestion. When any new drug is prescribed, all possible side affects including those that may affect nutrient status should be described.
To ensure that they are getting enough vitamins, minerals and antioxidants each day, seniors are consuming supplements in ever increasing numbers. Remember that the word is supplement. A pill still hasn"t been made that can replace a nutritious meal. But for seniors who just don’t feel hungry, a supplement may be the way to top up their diet. Even though their metabolism has slowed there is still a need for such things as antioxidants to help prevent tissue damage caused by free radicals. Such tissue damage is often the first step in a wide variety of diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer.