Aging is linked to a variety of changes in the body, including muscle loss, thinner skin, and decreased senses. Some of those many changes can lead to nutrient deficiencies while others may affect quality of life. Many older adults don’t need quite as many calories as they used to related to decreased activity and slower metabolism; however they do need to get just as much (if not more) of some nutrients. This creates a challenge to maximize nutrients while eating fewer calories. Some solutions to this issue include making sure older adults are receiving high quality whole foods, taking a multivitamin to make sure all nutrient bases are covered, and perhaps including a supplement in their everyday routine. Nutrients that are especially important as we age include protein, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12.
Protein will help maintain muscle mass, which is important because decreased muscle is a major cause of weakness leading to falls and fractures. Good protein sources include meat, eggs, cheese, and peanut butter. Calcium and vitamin D work together to preserve bone health. Calcium helps to build and maintain healthy bones while vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. Unfortunately calcium is absorbed into our bodies less as we age, which means older adults need more simply to maintain. Calcium and vitamin D are found in many dairy products including milk and cheese. And finally vitamin B12 is important for making red blood cells and healthy brain function. Vitamin B12 is less absorbed in adults over the age of 50, therefore B12 supplementation or consuming foods fortified with vitamin B12 may be a good decision. Overall, nutritional adjustments need to be made as we age in order to maximize our nutrition while still maintaining our weight including muscle mass and fat stores.