Common nutrient deficiencies that affect seniors
Getting sufficient nutrition becomes a challenge as we age. As the aging body’s calorie requirement begins to decline, every calorie consumed must be packed with nutrition in order to make the most of every meal. Unfortunately, not all adults hit their nutrient requirements due to declining food taste, blunting appetites, and difficulty in chewing or digesting. With their bodies becoming less efficient at absorbing nutrients, seniors fall short of the vitamins and minerals they should be getting.1
Here are key vitamins and nutrients the elderly should look out for and where to get the best sources.
Among the roles that calcium plays in nutrition, it’s most important function is building muscle and maintaining strong bones. Unfortunately, studies show that the elderly consume less calcium in their diets which increases their risk for osteoporosis or brittle bones and fractures. According to the WHO, women’s lifetime risk for osteoporosis fractures is closer to 40%. In contrast it is only 13% among men. Women are at greater risk because their bone loss accelerates after menopause. Prevention is possible with adequate calcium intake through good dietary sources of calcium like kale and broccoli, as well as juices fortified with calcium.1, 2
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, maintain bone density, and prevent osteoporosis. In older people, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of falling. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, including cereals, milk, some yogurts, and juices. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. However, vitamin D is found in salmon, tuna, and eggs.1
B12 is essential for creating red blood cells and DNA, and for maintaining healthy nerve function. Older people do not absorb B12 from food as well as younger people. Even if their diet contains enough, they may be falling short of it. Foods rich in B12 include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Talking to your doctor about whether you should take a B12 supplement is recommended.1
More than 40% of adults over age 50 don’t consume the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein from food alone. An adequate amount of protein intake with each meal—25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein—is important to help build protein and necessary for optimal muscle protein synthesis. Protein intakes at this level are particularly beneficial for older adults as a strategy to prevent muscle loss or sarcopenia, a natural process of progressive muscle loss that may begin after age 40. 3,4
Along with a balanced diet and regular exercise, nutrient deficiencies can be prevented. Ensure has a mix of what matters: high quality protein, nutrients including B vitamins, Vitamin D, calcium, and HMB or beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, a muscle-preserving ingredient that works with protein to help preserve muscles.