Thursday, December 31, 2009

Minerals for Seniors

Diminished digestion and ABSORPTION can lead to deficiencies of MAGNESIUM, IRON,
ZINC, COPPER, and CALCIUM. Older persons probably need more than the current calcium RDA of 800 mg because the ability of the intestine to absorb adequate calcium declines progressively with age. The common experience is that the bodies of elderly women and men remove calcium from their bones to meet their calcium needs. Supplementation with calcium and VITAMIN D, or calcium with low-dose ESTROGEN for post-menopausal women, seems to be more effective in slowing bone losses than supplementation with calcium alone. Normally, iron stores increase throughout adult life in men and in women after menopause. However, blood loss due to chronic ASPIRIN use and bleeding ulcers can cause iron deficiency; 5 percent of elderly men are iron deficient in the United States. CHROMIUM stores in the body decline steadily with age and this may contribute to the decline in the regulation of blood sugar. Chromium assists in insulin action and helps blood sugar regulation in some diabetics. Low chromium is correlated with elevated blood cholesterol levels.

Nutrient Needs During Aging

Elderly persons are prone to MALNUTRITION for several reasons. They are more likely to eat alone and so take less interest in meal preparation, and they are more often disabled and immobile. Thus, they are less likely to eat properly. More than 30 percent of homebound older individuals may have difficulty in preparing their own meals. Low-fiber, high-carbohydrate meals typify the diets of many elderly persons. They use more LAXATIVES and medications for long periods. Furthermore, many elderly persons have periodontal disease and poor teeth. Their senses of smell, taste, and sight decline, making eating less appealing, and STOMACH ACID production gradually drops, decreasing nutrient uptake even with an adequate diet.
Evidence indicates that superior nutrition may prevent unnecessary illness and disability from shortening a productive life. Therefore, experts recommend the following health decisions:
  • Avoiding excess calories and ALCOHOL. Surplus calories regardless of their source are converted to fat. Excessive body fat contributes to the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and some forms of cancer. Besides carrying a risk of addiction, excessive alcohol can damage the liver, pancreas, and brain, in addition to depleting the body of nutrients.
  • Medical testing of stomach acid production. Low stomach acid production sets the stage for inadequate digestion of nutrients.
  • Making informed choices regarding nutritional supplements. They can affect the quality of health of those who are nutrient deficient, though eating wisely.
  • Choosing a diet based on DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR AMERICANS as a foundation. A BALANCED DIET, one that provides adequate amounts of all nutrients and FIBER from varied, minimally processed foods without excessive calories and FAT, is of paramount importance.

Understanding Aflatoxin

A mycotoxin, a family of toxic compounds derived from molds growing on foods and on grains used for animal feed. Aflatoxin is produced by ASPERGILLUS, a storage mold that often infests damp grains and nuts. Nuts such as PISTACHIOS, ALMONDS, WALNUTS, PECANS, and PEANUTS are susceptible to MOLD. Very low levels of aflatoxin often contaminate PEANUT BUTTER. Spot checks have shown that this contamination is usually below the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limit. In the 1970s and again in the 1980s, hot drought conditions caused outbreaks of mold in corn and, consequently, widespread aflatoxin contamination.
Concern has focused on aflatoxin because it is a potent liver CARCINOGEN. The amount of aflatoxin permitted by the U.S. FDA is 15 parts per billion, although levels as low as one part per billion can cause liver cancer in certain species of experimental animals. As yet there is no compelling evidence that aflatoxin consumption in the low amounts usually encountered in Western nations causes cancer. In regions of Africa where peanut consumption and consequently aflatoxin intake is very high, population studies suggest a correlation with liver cancer in humans. Recent epidemiological studies have shown that ingestion of aflatoxin B-1 increases the risk of developing liver cancer. The risk is even higher for people who are infected with hepatitis B. In addition to increasing the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, ingestion of aflatoxin B-1 can cause acute symptoms of aflatoxicosis, including vomiting, abdominal pain, and even death.
Consumers should avoid moldy, discolored, or off-flavor nuts. Molds and fungi send out microscopic filaments beyond the immediate, visibly moldy area and cannot be easily removed. Furthermore, aflatoxin is not completely destroyed by cooking. Therefore moldy food (except cheese) should be discarded, rather than cutting out the mold.