Existing knowledge about nutrition and ageing suggests that nutrition has the power to make a substantial impact on the health and functional status of older individuals.
Nutrition interventions, including food supplements, could hold the promise of mitigating the impending burden of chronic disease and disability as well as improving the quality of life of this rapidly growing segment of the population.
Healthy Life Expectancy
The difference between total life expectancy and healthy life expectancy provides an important indicator of the years of disease and disability in a population. Typically, in Western countries, the number of years of life expected to be lived in full health is about eight to ten years shorter than total life expectancy. A great deal of scientific evidence exists which demonstrates that modifiable environmental, lifestyle and nutritional factors are important determinants of health and life expectancy.
Factors Influencing Adequate Nutrition In Older People
There are many physical, mental, social and environmental changes that take place with ageing, such that normal daily activities are hampered to some extent because of chronic ill health (eg. lack of exercise, poor dental health, side effects of drugs, depression and loneliness).
Nutritional Vulnerabilities of Older People
Typically, total energy intake declines with age, body weight tends to decrease and changes in body composition occur with a gradual decrease in muscle mass. However, being overweight can mask loss of skeletal muscle, resulting in reduced muscle strength and greater risk of disability and chronic disease.
Ensuring micronutrient sufficiency by means of nutrient-dense foods and food supplements becomes of even greater importance in the ageing population.
Why Micronutrients Are Essential
Vitamins and minerals have beneficial physiological effects that can be necessary for, and/or contribute to, the structure and function of particular organs and several physiological states, for example reproduction, conception, growth and development and body maintenance.
Achieving Optimal Nutrition
Eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet is a key message in all dietary recommendations and guidelines. However, national diet and nutrition surveys in the UK and around the world continue to demonstrate areas of nutritional concern and population groups at risk of inadequate nutrient intakes and nutrient deficiencies.
There are three complementary ways of safely delivering the essential vitamins and minerals for human health and wellbeing:
- By promoting the consumption of nutrient-dense foods such as fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, meat and dairy products
- By increasing the availability and intake of foods with added nutrients, and
- By appropriate use of food (dietary) supplements