In order to support healthy aging, retain both physical and mental wellness and manage chronic disease, eating well as we grow older is critical. The diagnosis of malnutrition, which can be described as “insufficient food intake, as compared with nutrition requirements,” affects our most vulnerable populations, the very young and the elderly. Malnutrition among mentally competent seniors, who visit hospital emergency rooms nearly 20 million times each year, is startlingly high and a cause for increasing concern. According to The National Resource Centre on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging, one in four older Americans currently suffers from poor nutrition. Addressing the nutritional needs of our senior citizens represents an important public health issue, as the elderly population is expected to reach 72 million people by 2030. By 2050, fully 20% of the population will be over 65 years of age.
Research shows that malnutrition is not only prevalent, it is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized. Statistics show there may be over one million homebound seniors who are malnourished. Additionally, as many as 65% of hospitalized seniors and up to 50% of seniors living in long-term care facilities are undernourished. Malnutrition can lead to loss of weight and muscle strength, decreased immunity and mental confusion or disorientation. There are many causes of malnutrition among the elderly, who are put at higher risk for health issues when undernourished. Malnutrition is not an inevitable side effect of aging, although the aging process can promote malnutrition with potentially serious health consequences. The reasons for senior malnutrition can be attributed to physical, medical and social factors.
Physical factors may include:
- Micronutrient deficiencies, which can lead to disease states and reduced energy to perform the tasks of daily living
- Loss of appetite and the impaired ability to regulate food intake
- Poor dentition, which can make chewing and swallowing food difficult
- The inability to acquire and prepare food or feed oneself
- Normal decrease in both taste and smell that often accompanies aging
Medical factors may include:
- Depression, dementia and loss of cognitive abilities
- Chronic diseases and conditions
- Medications that may reduce appetite or negatively impact absorption and metabolism of nutrients
Social factors may include:
- Living alone, especially for men
- Stress and bereavement
- Financial concerns where seniors may have to choose between food and medication or other necessities
- Poor access to healthy food or difficulty getting to the grocery store
Uncovering signs of malnutrition at the earliest stages can help prevent later complications. If you are a senior or a caregiver, be alert for signs such as weight loss, poor wound healing, easy bruising or dental difficulties. Consult with your healthcare provider about the risks of malnutrition and the side effects of medications. Be sure to discuss nutritional supplements. Dietary changes can make a big difference, as food insecure seniors have demonstrated significantly lower intakes of vital nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, saturated fats, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. Be sure to eat, or encourage your loved one to eat, nutrient dense foods, including fresh fruits and raw veggies, nut butters, eggs and whole dairy products. Make food more exciting by experimenting with spices and herbs and encourage healthy between meal snacking. Promote good health, increased longevity and independence by identifying and addressing elderly nutritional concerns sooner rather than later.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high end quality supplements designed to support the nutritional needs of seniors:
Active Adult 50+ MultiVitamin by Rainbow Light Nutrition – Designed for both men and women, this active senior multivitamin may be taken along with many prescription medications. Specially blended superfoods and essential nutrients support brain, bone, joint, heart and eye health, along with increased energy. The formula includes plant based enzymes and probiotics to support digestion and utilization of nutrients. Gluten, soy, dairy, iron, PABA and vitamin K free. SAVE 15%
Senior Symmetry by Vitanica – Designed for women over 65 years, this hypo-allergenic, high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement is formulated with highly absorbable premium nutrients. Depending on the dosage, this formula can complement a balanced diet, provide a well-balanced therapeutic level of nutrients or provide high-potency supplementation for chronic illness. Dairy, soy and wheat free vegetarian formulation.
Enzyme Nutrition Multi-Vitamin for Men by Enzymedica – Formulated specifically to meet the needs of men, this product provides 100% nutrient dense whole food, enzyme-activated nutrients along with guaranteed potency probiotics in support of heart health, immune function, increased energy and healthy aging. Dairy, soy and gluten free, Non-GMO formulation. Also available Enzyme Nutrition Multi-Vitamin for Women 50+.
Multi+Pro F50+ by Genestra – This advanced multivitamin formula, designed specifically for women over 50 years, provides support for overall health, immune function and menopausal symptoms. Proprietary probiotic strains are included for long-term maintenance of the digestive tract and immune support. Gluten and dairy free vegetarian formula. Multi+Pro M50+ formulated for men over age 50 also available.
Malnutrition and Older Americans. http://nutritionandaging.fiu.edu/aging_network/malfact2.asp
Malnutrition and aging. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2563720/
Malnutrition Threatens Many U.S. Seniors Seen at ERs. http://consumer.healthday.com/senior-citizen-information-31/senior-citizen-news-778/seniors-malnutrition-aem-release-batch-1327-690736.html
Senior Health: How to prevent and detect malnutrition. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/senior-health/art-20044699?pg=1