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7 Nutritional Requirements for Elderly

People’s bodies change as they get older and as a result they need different nutrition diet to fulfil the essential requirements. An essential component of preserving the health and wellbeing of the elderly is proper nutrition. Promoting the energy and longevity as well as to keep the healthy balance of body and mind, elderly people requires an understanding of their unique nutritional needs. This article will give a comprehensive idea about the nutritional requirements for elderly to provide essential energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrate for the optimal health of bone, heart, brain.

Nutritional Requirements for Elderly

Essential Nutritional Requirements for Elderly:

Understanding the nutritional requirements for elderly and understanding the adequate measurements of these nutritional elements play a vital role as we age. Here are the list of recommended nutritional requirements for elderly.

1. Energy:

Primarily because of decreases in metabolically active lean body mass and reductions in physical activity, our energy requirements decline as we age. Physical activities can delay some of this loss, thus allowing us to eat more without gaining weight, and increasing the likelihood that our diets will be adequate in essential nutrients.

The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for energy reflects the average requirement for individuals aged 51 and older. For men this value is 2,300 kilocalories per day, and for women the RDA is 1,900 kilocalories. Older men expend about 20 percent less energy than younger men. On the other hand, older women experience minimal changes in energy expenditure. One proposed explanation is that men tend to reduce their physical activity significantly when they retire, but women continue doing the bulk of the homework.

In addition, resting metabolic rate decreases by 20 percent in men, but only 13 percent in women. Individual energy needs change based on activity, lean body mass, and concurrent disease, a person who is bed or chairs-ridden, for example, usually requires fewer calories than a mobile person.

2. Protein:

Protein needs (as grams per day) do not change as we age, but may be somewhat harder for us to meet as our overall energy needs decrease and our tastes change. For healthy older people, the RDA for protein as nutritional requirements for elderly is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or 50 grams per day for women, and 63 grams per day for men using median body weight. Studies show that on average, men consume approximately 75 grams per day and women consume about 60 grams per day. Trauma, stress, and infection also may increase protein needs. However, there are risks associated with levels of protein intake, including dehydration, nitrogen-over load, and adverse effects on the kidney.

3. Carbohydrate:

After infancy, carbohydrate should make up more than half of the calories in our diet. Because foods with primarily simple carbohydrate provide little nutritional value, the best choices are foods with complex carbohydrate.

Fiber, a complex carbohydrate, has many potential benefits and proves as nutritional requirements for elderly, including preventing constipation and possibly reducing the risk of colon cancer. There are no specific fiber recommendations for elderly people, the typical recommendation for general population is 20 to 35 grams per day. Fiber also can help to reduce blood cholesterol, making these recommendations specially important for those who are at high risk of heart disease. Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, accompanied by wholegrain breads or serving cereal high in bran, will supply this amount easily. If you want to avoid abdominal discomfort, then it is recommended to take dietary fiber gradually.

4. Fat:

Excess dietary fat can lead to obesity, which in turn increases the risk of diabetes, heart risk and some types of cancer. Younger people should limit their dietary cholesterol and fat, but severe restrictions in elders may be counterproductive. Some elder people make extreme efforts to avoid dietary fat and consume low-fat-diet, which is high in simple carbohydrates.

Healthy people who are at risk of heart disease should obtain a maximum of 30 percent of their daily calories from fat, with no more than 20 percent of the calories from saturated fat. They should limit their cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day. People with increased risk of heart disease, should limit the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol more, according to the advice of physician.

5. Water:

Nutritionists often call water the forgotten nutrient. Water is essential to all body functions and if intake is inadequate, cellular metabolism becomes difficult, if not impossible. In elders, the decreased thirst response and the kidney’s reduced concentrating capacity can lead to dehydration. Diuretic medications, alcohol, caffeine all increase fluid excretion and are contributors to dehydration. Scientists estimate needs of water that fulfil the nutritional requirements for elderly at 1 millilitre per kilocalorie of food consumed, or 39 millilitres per kilogram of body weight per day.

6. Vitamins:

As we age, our micronutrients status changes, especially our need for vitamin D, vitamin B12. As we age, In many cases, the requirements of vitamins remain in desirable state, while our energy needs decline. Therefore, it is important to incorporate nutritional requirements for elderly and to eat nutrient-dense foods to optimal health for bone, heart, brain.

The vital vitamins for elderly include:

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D promotes bone health; too little dietary vitamin D can lead to brittle and porous bones that are susceptible to fracture. Thus vitamin D proves as an essential nutritional requirements for elderly because of decreased exposure to sunlight, age-related decreases in synthesis and low dietary intake, elders often have low vitamin D.

Vitamin B Group:

The B vitamin deserves special consideration nutritional requirements for elderly and in adults. At least 15 percent of elders may have B12 deficiency. Although most adults consume adequate amount of dietary vitamin B12, from 10 to 30 percent elders lose their ability to absorb protein-bound vitamin B12. This may be due to decrease in gastric acidity which affects the breakdown of protein

In the over 50 year category, the RDA for vitamin B6 is 1.7 milligrams per day for men and 1.5 milligrams per day for women.

7. Minerals:

There are some essential minerals needed in larger amounts during the late adulthood. The potential role of these minerals to reduce high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes is a top research priority. The essential minerals for elderly include:

Calcium:

Maintaining adequate calcium intake reduces the rate of age related bone loss and the incidents of fractures, especially of the hip. For all adults aged 51 and older, the necessary for calcium intake is 1200 milligrams per day.

Zinc:

A study shows zinc deficiency in elders in stress, especially in hospitalized elders appears to increase the risk of zinc deficiency and suppress immune function. Studies so that zinc supplementation hastens wound healing, but only in those who are zinc deficient.

Magnesium:

Magnesium plays an essential role in many cellular reactions. Evidence is beginning to accumulate regarding the relationship between low serum magnesium and atherosclerosis. Magnesium deficiency has been observed in people with malabsorption syndromes. The body absorbs magnesium from food more efficiently than from supplements. Although magnesium supplements seem to have few side effects. The UL for supple mental magnesium is 350 mg per day.

Iron:

Iron remains an important nutrient throughout the life cycle. Iron deficiency is a concern for elders who have limited intake of iron from the best sources – red meat, fish and poultry.

Nutritional Requirements for Elderly People

Is supplement good or not for elderly? 

Use of dietary supplements including vitamins, minerals and herbal and medicinal products is growing fast. Although food is the best medicine, some elders may think they need a supplement as nutritional requirements for elderly in order to meet their nutrient needs. However replacing food with supplements may be a poor trade off.

Excessive use of vitamin supplements by elders may result in negative effects. The need for vitamin A decreases with age, increasing the chances that supplementation may lead to liver dysfunction, bone and joint pains, headaches and other problems. Also taking large amounts of Vitamin C can increase the likelihood of renal stones and gastric bleeding. Because we know that many older people use vitamin supplements, and that may have negative effects on health, it is important to inform elders of the ULs for micronutrients. For most nutrients, the UL represents a level of intake from a combination of food and dietary supplements that should not be exceeded on a routine basis.

Final Thought:

Understanding and estimating the nutritional requirements for elderly is essential for promoting their health and quality of life. A balanced diet, especially recommended by nutritionists, can provide nutritional requirements for elderly. As we age, incorporating proper nutrition becomes paramount, helping in maintaining vitality, strength and cognitive function. By focusing on the above discussed nutritional requirements for elderly, the aged people can lead a healthier and more fulfilling lives.

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Hi, I am Tanushree, a general health consultant and advisor provide advices and knowledge on health and nutrition.

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