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HiddenHealthChallenges2March 2 2016

Nutritional status in many people aged over 50 reveals they “desperately need advice on how to eat for their age,” a new report is claiming. In addition, they “should be taking a daily multivitamin to bridge the massive dietary gaps.”

Any effective strategy to support and promote healthy ageing must address nutritional concerns, including inadequate nutrition or nutritional deficit, says ‘The Hidden Health Challenges Report’. It quotes the Malnutrition Task Force which advised that providing oral nutritional supplements in hospitals could save £849 per patient.

The report was commissioned by PAGB, the body representing OTC medicines and supplements manufacturers, and the Health Supplement Information Service. It sets out dietary advice and strategies to address the barriers to healthy ageing detailed in a 2014 European Union report which identified “under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency” as “a common problem in older adults.”

Among the findings included in the new report are:

  • shortfalls of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are widespread, despite clear evidence they help calm inflammation, a key driver in many age-related health problems;
  • nine out of ten older people have inadequate intakes of vitamin D; shortfalls are exacerbated by the fact that people’s ability to synthesise vitamin D from sunshine decreases with age;
  • ability to absorb vitamin B12 also declines with age, so that 15% of over-60s are deficient, increasing their risk of anaemia, and potentially putting them at risk of brain shrinkage;
  • antioxidants reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the UK’s leading cause of blindness, by 25%.

The Hidden Health Challenges report was written by an expert panel including HSIS dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton. “Nutrition is an absolute fundamental for good health. Our bodies need the right fuel in the right amounts, and the correct balance of key nutrients, to function effectively,” she said.

“It is a scandal that in the UK today there are so many older adults at risk of failing health because their diet is not delivering the nutrients they need. Food alone cannot meet all the nutritional needs of an ageing population.”

Professor Katherine Appleton, a nutritionist and psychologist based at Bournemouth University, has also contributed to the report. “The surveys described in this review suggest that the diets of older adults are deficient in various nutrients, and numerous studies demonstrate the value of supplementation for improving nutrient profiles and health, well-being and functional outcomes. These findings suggest a potential positive role for supplementation in healthy ageing,” she said.

“Healthy ageing, and ongoing healthy nutrition are major current societal challenges. Supplements could play an important role in addressing these challenges.”

HiddenHealthChallenges1

Links:

PAGB announcement

PAGB / HSIS ‘The Hidden Health Challenges Report’ 

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