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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2001

Nutritional needs of senior citizens vary

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Nutritional needs of older adults vary from person to person.

“By the time you are 80, your nutrition needs are based on the health you have had all through your life, the way you've eaten, and the medications you take,” says Debra Boardley, associate professor of public health at the University of Toledo and a registered dietitian. “The elderly are more and more different as they get older. Your needs are different. What one 80-year-old needs, is not what the next 80-year-old needs. If you had a poor diet all your life, your needs are increased.”

She advises following the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid for getting adequate calories of nutritious foods. Eat a variety of foods in moderation. Caloric needs are based on activity, age, and weight. “Even taking antacids will decrease absorption of nutrients,” says the dietitian.

The components for a heathful diet for anyone over age 70 has been addressed by 70+ Food Guide Pyramid, developed by Tufts University researchers.

The base of the revised pyramid is narrower than the USDA's pyramid, with six or more daily servings of bread and grain, compared to six to 11 daily servings in the USDA guide. The change accounts for the reduced energy intake common among seniors. With an estimated energy intake of 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day, elderly consumers have to make every calorie count to get the essential nutrients, according to the Tufts Nutrition Commentator.

While grain foods anchor the USDA pyramid for other ages, the 70+ pyramid is built on a base of eight servings of water. Adequate hydration is a chronic problem for many seniors.

Calcium and vitamin D absorption decrease with age, which harms bone health and increases the risk of fractures. “Milk provides vitamin D, but some seniors are lactose intolerant,” says Dr. Boardley. Note that “cereal fortified with vitamin D is an option.”

The ability to absorb vitamin B12 needed for normal nerve function also decreases with age, making it another nutrient that needs to be in the diet of elderly consumers. Vitamin B12 is found in salmon, beef, yogurt, shrimp, milk, chicken, and eggs. For more information, visit www.com-municator.tufts.edu/archive/ nutrition/pyramid.html



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