A report published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) stresses the importance of correct diet to enhance older people’s nutritional well-being with the ultimate aim of improving health in later life
In general, dietary intake goals for older adults are similar to those for the general adult population, but particular nutritional issues relating to ageing such as, the need for a more protein-dense diet to prevent frailty, require more specific food-based dietary guidelines. Other matters associated with advancing age, such as decreased mobility, frailty and possible dependence on residential care, must be specifically addressed in dietary recommendations. Key recommendations from the report include:
- Older adults who are obese with weight-related health problems should receive individual intervention to ensure weight reduction undertaken is beneficial and minimises loss of muscle tissue (slow weight loss with physical activity). Lower risk older adults who are overweight are advised to avoid weight-loss diets in order to prevent loss of muscle mass.
- Older adults at risk of ‘low intake’ dehydration need adequate amount of drinks. Women need 1.6ltrs and males 2ltrs per day (unless a clinical condition to require fluid restriction).
- Strong tea should only be consumed between meals and not during meals, as it interferes with absorption of iron and zinc.
- Sense of taste diminishes with age and can lead to increased salt intake; therefore, consumption of salty foods should be avoided and alternatives such as herbs and spices can be used to increase flavour.
- High quality proteins to stimulate muscle protein: Healthy older adults should eat a more protein-dense diet – foods such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs.
- Adequate calorie intake to prevent development of frailty, muscle loss (sarcopenia) and undernutrition.
- Diets should contain high fibre carbohydrates, but low in free sugars. The average intake of carbohydrates are at the lower end of recommended consumption range whilst one third of older people exceed recommended free sugar intake.
- A daily 15 µg vitamin D supplement is now recommended by the Department of Health for all older adults in Ireland. This report provides specific details on the range of dietary intake recommended for vitamin D in older adults, which vary according to ability to obtain some of this vitamin from sunlight exposure.
- Fortified foods are a good source of B vitamins (B12, folate, B6 and riboflavin) and vitamin D; whilst unsweetened orange juice, salads, fruit and vegetables are reliable daily food sources of vitamin C.
Over 65s are the fastest growing age group in Ireland, having increased by 19% in the 2016 census to some 630,800 people (13.8% of total population), with expected ongoing increases to a predicted 1.6 million older citizens by 2051. Older adults represent a diverse group, some healthy and fit with a good capacity for physical activity and some living with chronic conditions and diseases, which compromise activity levels and mobility and have an impact on nutritional requirements. This report covers these factors and describes various dietary approaches that are optimal for managing the differences in nutrient requirements of the older population in Ireland.
Scientific Recommendations for Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for Older Adults is freely available to view and download at https://www.fsai.ie/DietaryGuidelines_OlderAdults_Ireland/
Or telephone Jane Ryder of The Food Safety Authority of Ireland at 087 2429180