Seniors’ Nutritional Needs Change With Age

As seniors enter their “Golden Years,” not only do their bodies change, but so does their metabolism, according to Nancy McAfee, M.D.

Although older adults still need plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fiber, they need to add or subtract a few things from the diet they followed earlier in life.

Many older adults have a decreased sense of taste and decreased absorption, notes Dr. McAfee, a physician at the NorthBay Center for Primary Care in Fairfield. They need to make sure they get enough water and nutrients, even if they must take supplements to get them.

Although we all should drink eight glasses of water a day, it’s critical for older adults to factor in water because they have decreased kidney function and may not feel thirsty.

Adequate water intake helps avoid constipation. Older adults’ digestive tracts don’t work as effectively as they once did, making constipation more likely, and many older adults have dental problems that keep them from eating as much fiber as they need. Fiber also helps prevent constipation.

Another possible addition to an older adult’s diet is a vitamin and mineral supplement, says Dr. McAfee. Older adults often don’t get enough calcium or vitamin D in their diet, and a lack of either of those can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis.

Vitamin B12 is another nutrient that’s often found lacking in older adults. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans report that, on average, people over age 50 get adequate vitamin B12 by eating fortified cereals. However, as the body ages, it becomes less able to absorb B12 from foods. B12 is critical for healthy nerve and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 supplements may be taken as a pill, an injection, or a gel applied to the inside of the nose.

You should discuss supplements with your healthcare provider.

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