During aging the body changes. As a result, the elderly have a different need for energy, vitamins, and minerals.
In this article, I explain what points of attention are in the diet of older people from 70 years. I also explain which supplements are recommended for this target group.
Energy needs during aging
The need for energy decreases with age. This is because muscle mass breaks down from the age of 30.
The metabolism slows down and the body starts to contain less muscle mass and more fat mass. As a result, the body needs less energy. Often the amount of movement also decreases. This leads to even lower energy requirements and often muscle breakdown.
Due to the muscle breakdown, the energy requirement decreases even further. Fat mass uses less energy than muscle mass. However, the amount of micronutrients required remains the same. Some micronutrients require even more.
The rate of muscle breakdown in the elderly can be reduced by eating enough protein and doing enough muscle-strengthening exercises.
Protein needs for the elderly
Then the body breaks down muscle mass. This is a natural process for the elderly.
To ensure that this goes as slowly as possible, it is important to get enough protein.
The protein requirement for the elderly is at least 1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight. That is practically about 100 grams of protein source with the evening meal and 40 grams of cheese per day. The protein source can be meat, fish, or a vegetarian substitute. These can also be legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas.
2-3 servings of dairy per day are recommended for women and 3 servings of dairy per day for men.
The exact amount of protein for the elderly depends on diseases, malnutrition, and overweight. If you are overweight, the need may be lower, because the calculation does not take overweight into account. The amount of protein is mainly needed for muscle mass. The muscle mass of overweight older people is lower than the calculation is based on. A dietitian can help with a precise calculation of the needs of the elderly.
Calcium for seniors
Calcium absorption is reduced in the elderly. Due to insufficient exercise and insufficient intake of vitamin D, the absorption decreases even more. A deficiency of calcium can lead to osteoporosis.
With a varied diet with sufficient dairy products and calories, the elderly will generally receive sufficient calcium. Calcium is found in dairy and vegetables, among other things. There are also supplements with calcium that prevent a deficiency of this nutrient.
Salt, caffeine, and alcohol cause calcium loss. If there is no calcium deficiency, the elderly do not need to avoid these substances.
Vitamin D for older people
We get part of the required amount of vitamin D through food. We get most of the required amount of vitamin D from the sun. Our skin can produce vitamin D through sunlight.
The production decreases in the elderly because the skin is older. The absorption may decrease with age. The elderly are therefore advised to supplement with 20 micrograms of vitamin D per day.
Vitamin B12 in submersion
Some elderly people develop a deficiency of vitamin B12. This vitamin is processed by substances from the stomach acid so that it can then be absorbed in the intestine.
Gastric mucosa inflammation is common in the elderly. This ensures less production of stomach acid so that the B12 can be processed (less). As a result, B12 can be absorbed less or not in the gut.
Kidney function also declines with age. As a result, the elderly need extra fluid to remove waste products through the urine.
In addition, the elderly often notice less that they are thirsty. For these reasons, it is important to pay extra attention to adequate fluid intake. Tea, water, coffee, dairy, and soup fall under moisture.
A loss of appetite is common in the elderly. This can have the following causes, among others.
- Loss of taste
- Chewing and swallowing problems
- Less salivation
- Side effects of medications
It can help to eat regularly and to eat smaller portions per day. In addition, the elderly can enrich the meals with extra sauce, cream, or oil.
Whole products contain more calories than lean and semi-skimmed products. A broth can whet the appetite in some seniors.
Some elderly people have trouble cooking independently. They can have meals delivered especially for the elderly at home.
Elderly and underweight
The reduced appetite causes the elderly to eat less. This can lead to being underweight or malnutrition. Underweight means that you are underweight for your height. You can check this by calculating your BMI.
With malnutrition, the elderly are underweight, normal weight, or even overweight. However, people with malnutrition are deficient in certain nutrients.
Obesity is also common in older people. Overweight, malnutrition, and underweight all hurt the health of the elderly. That is why it is important to maintain a healthy weight.