Older persons are vulnerable to malnutrition. Attempts to provide them with adequate nutrition pose many practical problems. The process of ageing also affects other nutrient needs. For example, while requirements for some nutrients may be reduced, some data suggest that requirements for other essential nutrients may in fact rise in later life.
Life expectancy all around the world has increased dramatically during the past century, creating a large population of people with potentially compromised nutritional status. The ageing persons and subsequent generations will look to the food industry to provide products that can help them live longer, healthier and more active lives than previous generations, according to research presented at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness 12 meeting.
Recent data suggests that requirements for protein and energy often do not decline and may actually increase during disease exacerbations. Significant segments of the population have deficiencies based on limited intake or absorption. Social and psychological factors and difficulty chewing and swallowing may interfere with adequate intake. Careful initial and periodic reassessment of nutritional status and aggressive nutritional management must be used to prepare patients for optimal independence after discharge. Improved clinical outcome can be achieved with prevention of malnutrition and timely correction of nutritional problems.
There are 78 million baby boomers, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as those born from Jan. 1, 1946, to Dec. 31, 1964 in the United States. They began reaching the retirement age of 65 last year, and 10,000 more will reach that milestone every day for the next 18 years. In addition to seeking products that help them live better lives, they also will be seeking products in the coming years to help with the illnesses and chronic conditions common to older people, such as diabetes, vision loss and bone/joint problems.
Lu Ann Williams, head of research for Innova Market Insights, noted these areas of opportunity for food scientists, manufacturers and marketers:
Adding protein to boost metabolism, prevent fat gain and muscle loss
Marketing the value of foods in preserving vision health, with vitamin A and lutein
Bone health claims, including non-dairy sources of calcium
Joint/mobility health, such as drinks containing glucosamine and chondroitin
Cognitive health, which includes adding Omega 3s and B vitamins to foods
Vitamin C products for immune health
Beta glucans and other products for heart/circulatory health
Ray Winger, Ph.D., managing director of Inside Foods Limited, said consumers who are trying to manage a health condition such as diabetes, cancer or kidney disease want foods that are appropriate for them to be clearly labeled as such and to be as affordable, tasty and available as any other food. He said it also may be beneficial to provide consumers with financial incentives for purchasing a healthier food option, such as no or lower tax on low-sodium bread.