Proper nutrition for seniors as important as medicine
With increasing age, eating habits and metabolism change. Seniors tend to be less active than younger ones and don't need as many calories anymore. However, the need for vitamins and trace elements remains high. Experts explain how optimal nutrition can protect against malnutrition and malnutrition.
Calorie requirements and appetite decrease
With age, eating habits and metabolism change. Seniors over 70 are usually not as physically active as in younger years, basic metabolism and calorie requirements decrease, loss of appetite is widespread. But the need for vitamins and trace elements remains high. Health experts therefore warn against malnutrition and malnutrition in the later years of life and explain what optimal nutrition looks like in old age, what strengthens seniors and what harms them.
Vitamin D deficiency widespread in the elderly
As the German Society for Internal Medicine (DGIM) reports in the run-up to its annual congress, the peculiarities of age are particularly clear using vitamin D as an example.
The body can produce the vitamin that is important for calcium balance and bone formation, but it needs the UV-B portion of sunlight for this.
There are now two problems for seniors: firstly, aged skin can produce less vitamin D, and secondly, older people generally spend less time outdoors - especially if they are in need of care or even bedridden.
"Then it is impossible to meet the demand from natural foods," explains Professor Dr. med. Jürgen M. Bauer, Medical Director of the Agaplesion Bethanien Hospital Heidelberg and therefore advises seniors to take vitamin D supplements.
A study by researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München recently showed how widespread vitamin D deficiency is among the elderly.
According to the experts, about half of those over 65 are affected.
Adequate protein supply
According to the DGIM, the diet beyond the age of 70 should also be designed so that the body weight remains largely stable.
A strong weight loss affects mainly the muscles in seniors and harbors the risk of sarcopenia, that is, an excessive loss of muscle mass and strength. As a result, the tendency to fall and the risk of fractures increase.
“Muscle mass that has been lost once is difficult to train again in old age,” says Bauer.
Muscle maintenance can be implemented into old age if the breakdown is countered early - on the one hand by exercise, on the other hand by a good protein supply.
To ensure this, seniors should consume 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. If the muscle mass has already decreased significantly, even 1.4 grams is recommended.
It is not necessary to use meat as a source of protein. High-quality dairy products with a high leucine content - such as hard cheese - and vegetable proteins can also meet the demand. According to experts, the latter are also considerably healthier than animal ones.
Diet adapted to individual needs
In addition to the lack of protein, there is another for the decrease in muscular fitness in old age
Mechanisms essential. Inflammatory processes and oxidative stress also seem to play an important role here.
Nutritionists therefore advise seniors to eat enough fruit and vegetables as a source of antioxidants and fish as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
"At a time when food is practically always and everywhere available, we have the luxury of being able to choose what we eat," says DGIM Chairman Professor Dr. Cornel C. Sieber.
Deciding wisely here can help prevent obesity at a young age and prevent malnutrition in old age.
At any age, high-quality nutrition tailored to individual needs is the most important form of health care - if possible combined with exercise. “We simply don't have better medicine for aging.” (Ad)