Nutrition Basics - Nutrition in Geriatrics


  Nutrition in Geriatrics

Elderly people are at increased risk for nutrient deficiencies and should ensure adequate intake of calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B12, Vitamin E, Fiber and minerals. Antioxidants should be increased in their diet. As we age, eating well can also be the key to a positive outlook. With increasing age physiological changes takes place. Many physiological changes occur like gastrointestinal tract changes include reduction in digestion and absorption, lower protein reserves slow the body’s ability to respond to injury, cardiovascular changes may occur reduced sodium intake is necessary. In elderly from the age of 35 years Basal metabolic rate starts decreasing, hence the energy requirements are less. Geriatric nutrition must take into account sensory and oral changes.

Nutrition management:

Carbohydrates:  As BMR is decreased energy requirements are low, but requirements for other nutrients remain the same. A diet should include complex carbohydrates in more amounts. Diet should provide50 – 60% of calories from carbohydrates.

Proteins:   Protein intake is same as for other adults that are around 0.8 to 1 gms per kg body weight per day. Decreased wound healing and decreased immune response increase susceptibility to infections. To protect the protein from being used for energy, you have to include good amount of complex carbohydrates in your diet.

Fats: Saturated fats in the diet should be avoided. Include more amounts of polyunsaturated fats which are good for health. Polyunsaturated fats contribute to the essential fatty acids. Fats also aids in absorption of fat soluble vitamins.

Fluids: In oldage dehydration is most common problem. This may cause fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Fluids intake should be adequate. Adequate water intake guidelines are 1ml water/kcal energy consumed, for most individuals it would be around 25 to 30ml/kg body weight.

Vitamins: Vitamin B12 deficiency is common among the elderly and the usual cause is a loss of gastric intrinsic factor. Antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E should be increased, as this antioxidants effect in reducing the risk for age related muscular degeneration. Vitamin C rich foods should be provided. The current recommended allowance of vitamin C is 60 mg for both men and women over 51 years age, with an increase to 100 mg/day. Vitamin C rich foods aids in proper absorption of iron.

Minerals: Bone loss due to osteoporosis failure to absorb calcium efficiently. So calcium intake should be increased. Recommended level for post menopausal women is 1000 – 1500 mg of calcium daily. Iron deficiency may be increased due to chronic blood loss from ulcers, hemorrhoids, poor in iron absorption due to stomach acid secretion. Iron rich foods should be in adequate. Zinc deficiency is associated with impaired immune function, anorexia, and delayed woudhealing. Rich sources of Zinc include meat, pulses, shell fish and whole meal bread. Hypertension is common in elderly and sodium intake is to be reduced, that is around 2 to 4g/day.

Nutrition tips for Elderly:

  • Eat foods high in fiber. High fiber diet can help prevent constipation. High fiber foods include brown rice, whole grains, vegetables, beans and fruits.
  • Eat foods high in omega 3 fatty acids. These foods may help decrease inflammation, decrease the risk of heart disease.
  • Encourage physical activity.
  • Drink adequate water.
  • Eat small frequent meals rather than three large meals.
  • Eat good and right amount of lean proteins.
  • Cut down too much salt.
  • Limit the amount of sweets and sugars.

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