Nutrition and The Aging Body

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As we age, so do our bodies.  Depending on how well we have maintained it over the years, its ability to absorb nutrients and handle water may also begin to decline. This week’s blog aims to provide insight into what some of those changes are and ways you can compensate for them.

Of course, each person’s body is different and therefore this information does not apply to everyone.

However, one could benefit by making changes to their diet based on these observations. Given the medical nature of this text, I will quote directly from Merck Manuals:

[Calories: As people age, they tend to be less active and thus use less energy, making it easier to gain weight. If they try to consume fewer calories to avoid weight gain, they may not get all the nutrients needed – particularly vitamins and minerals. If older people stay physically active, their need for calories may not change.

Protein: As people age, they tend to lose muscle. If older people do not consume enough protein, they may lose even more muscle. For older people who have problems eating (for example, because of difficulty swallowing or dental disorders), protein can be consumed in foods that are easier to chew than meat, such as fish, dairy products, eggs, peanut butter, beans, and soy products.

Fiber: Eating enough fiber can help counter the slowing of the digestive tract that occurs as people age. Older people should eat 8 to 12 servings of high-fiber foods daily. Getting fiber from foods is best, but fiber supplements, such as psyllium, may be needed.

Vitamins and minerals: Older people may need to take supplements of specific vitamins and minerals in addition to a multivitamin. Calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 are examples. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D from the diet is difficult. These nutrients are needed to maintain strong Bones, which are particularly important for older people. Some older people do not absorb enough vitamin B12, even though they consume enough in foods, because the stomach and intestine become less able to remove vitamin B12 from food or to absorb it. Older people with this problem can absorb vitamin B12 better when it is given as a supplement

Water: As people age, they are more likely to become dehydrated because their ability to sense thirst decreases. Thus, older people need to make a conscious effort to drink enough fluids rather than wait until they feel thirsty.]1

As we age, we’re also more likely to have disorders or take drugs, which can further complicate our diet and nutritional needs. So, as always, please remember to consult your primary care physician before making any health changes.

REFERENCES

[1] Youdim, Adrienne M.D. “Diets.” MERCK MANUAL Consumer Version. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.,  a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., 2018. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/overview-of-nutrition/diets. Accessed 12 April 2018.