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Title: Aging: nutrition

item LICHTENSTEIN, ALICE - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/10/2014
Publication Date: 10/15/2014
Citation: Lichtenstein, A.H. 2014. Aging: nutrition. In: Caplan, M.J., editor. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences. San Diego, CA: Elsevier, Inc. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-801238-3.00155-0.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The goal of dietary guidance for older adults is to maintain optimal health status and forestall the onset of chronic diseases. The current dietary recommendations for older adults, for the most part, are consistent with those associated with optimal health outcomes throughout adulthood. Due to decreased levels of physical activity, decreased metabolic rates, and increased fat-to-lean muscle mass with advancing years, energy requirements decline. This necessitates a greater emphasis on choosing nutrient-dense foods. With advancing years living environments may need to be adapted to enable older adults to retain their ability to acquire and prepare familiar foods. Changes in social situations can impact food intake and should be monitored. In both developed and developing countries the demographic distribution of the population is shifting toward older age categories. For example, in the U.S. it has been estimated that the category of people aged 65 years and older grew over 10-fold between 1900 and 2000, from 3 million to 35 million. The U.S. Census Bureau has estimated that the number of people age 65 years and older will increase by more than 20-fold between 2000 and 2030, from 3 to 70 million. Putting this into perspective, about one out of every five people in the U.S. will be age 65 years and older. Even more striking, it has been estimated that between 1900 and 2000 the number of people aged 85 years and older increased by more than 30-fold. Similar trends are seen in other industrialized countries worldwide. Reasons for the population shift toward people in the older age categories include lowered birth rates, lowered childhood mortality rates, widespread availability of antibiotics and vaccines, improved public sanitation, improved nutritional status, advances in medical treatments, and safer working conditions. From the perspective of nutrition guidance, as the world population shifts towards the older age categories more emphasis needs to be directed at promoting dietary patterns that are associated with achieving and maintaining optimal health outcomes. This nutrition guidance should primarily be directed at delaying the onset of chronic diseases and maximizing the potential for older individuals to stay healthy, independent and active for as long as possible. To increase the likelihood that these goals will be achieved it is important for efforts to start earlier in life, rather than when health challenges emerge. Hence, although the primary focus of this chapter is on unique nutritional issues associated with aging, current nutrition guidelines for older adults are consistent with what is appropriate for all adults, regardless of age. In terms of chronic disease risk, prevention is far more powerful than treatment.