Nutrition and old age - Nutrition




Nutrition and old age

Normal dietary needs in old age What the official sources say Nutritional risks in old age
  • Normal food needs in old age
  • What the official sources say
  • Nutritional risks in old age

When we speak of third age we refer to that part of the population that is 65 years of age or older. The elderly are constantly increasing, especially in the western world. The world population is aging and Italy holds the record; in our country, in fact, one in five citizens is over 65 years old and more than half of them are over 75. This phenomenon can be explained by the drop in births, but above all by the increase in life expectancy. The elderly therefore constitute a large population and, as we will see later, very heterogeneous.

Man reaches biological maturity around the age of 30; then aging begins, that is, the slow and progressive reduction of the function of the various organs. Fortunately, we are born with great functional exuberance of the organs, just think that you can live without problems with just one kidney or that a healthy liver may be enough to transplant two subjects. Thanks to this biological reserve, despite the progressive deterioration of organic functions, it is possible to live well even at a very advanced age.

The aging process is influenced by genetic factors, which we cannot modify, and by environmental factors, which are instead modifiable; moreover, it varies greatly from individual to individual. There are people who age in an excellent way, who in all likelihood do not need drug therapies and who would have lived long even in remote times; there are also subjects affected by one or more chronic but well controlled pathologies that age normally, with a good quality of life thanks to the therapies; finally, there are more compromised subjects with pathological aging. Consequently, there are elderly people with the same age, but with a very different biological age.

As life expectancy increases, the gap of this diversity opens more and more, giving rise to an older population that includes older people who are increasingly different from each other.

It is possible to make a classification and distinguish between "young elderly" (or young old, as the Anglo-Saxons say), "older elderly", after 80-85 years, according to the classifications (oldest old) and over one hundred years old (figure 2 ). This classification is obviously based on the personal age and cannot take into account the individual's aging modality. The wide variability that characterizes this segment of population makes it difficult to formulate nutritional indications that meet different needs.

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Normal food needs in old age

The nutritional needs of the elderly are not substantially different from those of the adult, provided that constant physical activity is maintained. In the case of sedentary life, however, the reduced metabolism that accompanies the processes of aging and which therefore requires a lower energy requirement, must correspond to a reduction in food intake to avoid weight gain.

The optimal solution is certainly to lead an active life since in this case you can follow a balanced and varied diet without having to give up some foods not strictly necessary from a nutritional point of view and therefore to the pleasures of the table. If physical activity is poor, having to reduce the daily calorie intake without sacrificing the most noble foods (red meats, fish, poultry, milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables), it is essential to limit the consumption of some high calorie foods (such as desserts, sugary and alcoholic drinks, seasoning fats) and possibly eat a few starchy foods (pasta, rice, bread and potatoes).

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