Seniors, Malnutrition, Vitamin Deficiencies
Malnutrition is seen in varying degrees in the elderly, along with varying vitamin deficiencies. Malnutrition is due to under nutrition, nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. Most physicians do not see frank malnutrition anymore, such as scurvy; but more milder malnutrition symptoms such as loss of appetite, general malaise or lack of overall interest and wellness.
Common nutrient deficiencies of dietary origin include inadequate intake of vitamin A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. Malnutrition may also be the result of some socioeconomic risk factors, such as the following:
- Fear of personal safety (which affects their ability to go grocery shopping)
- Financial concerns
- Institutionalization or hospitalizations (that do not ensure adequate nutrition)
- Lack of interest in cooking or eating alone
- Loss of a spouse or family member
Clearly, nutrition plays a vital role in the quality of life in older persons. This is why preventative medicine and focusing on good eating habits is crucial. It is recommended to follow a preventative health maintenance nutritional program, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which describes two eating plans:
- The USDA food patterns.
- The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan.
The USDA food patterns suggests that people 50 or older choose healthy foods every day from the following:
Fruits — 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups
What is the same as 1/2 cup of cut-up fruit? A 2-inch peach or 1/4 cup of dried fruit
Vegetables — 2 to 3-1/2 cups
What is the same as a cup of cut-up vegetables? Two cups of uncooked leafy vegetable
Grains — 5 to 10 ounces
What is the same as an ounce of grains? A small muffin, a slice of bread, a cup of flaked, ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta
Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces
What is the same as an ounce of meat, fish, or poultry? One egg, ¼ cup of cooked beans or tofu, ½ ounce of nuts or seeds, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
Dairy foods — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
What is the same as 1 cup of milk? One cup of yogurt or 1-1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese. One cup of cottage cheese is the same as ½ cup of milk.
Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons
What is the same as oil added during cooking? Foods like olives, nuts, and avocado have a lot of oil in them.
Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) — keep the amount of SoFAS small
If you eat too many foods containing SoFAS, you will not have enough calories for the nutritious foods you should be eating.
Ensuring adequate nutrition and proper intake of vitamins and minerals will help keep our aging population feeling more vital and ultimately more healthy, thus using prevention rather than intervention.
Learn more about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services DASH eating plan to decide whether it’s right for you or a loved one.
Excerpted from Dr. Lindsay Jones-Born