Thursday, December 31, 2009

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.

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