Nutrient requirements of older adults

Malnutrition in older adults

  • Around a quarter of older adults (65 years and older) are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. This number is expected to rise alongside the rapid increase in life expectancy. 
  • Malnourished older adults have a higher risk of adverse clinical outcomes such as frailty, osteoporosis, muscle loss and mortality.
  • Many diet-related factors can contribute to malnutrition in older adults including a decline in food intake due to health problems, reduced access to nutritious food, difficulties in shopping and cooking food and affordability of food.

How does ageing affects nutrient requirements and food intake?

  • There are several anatomical and physiological changes occurring in the body with ageing which may impact nutritional needs. These include gastrointestinal changes leading to earlier satiety and impaired bioavailability and absorption of some nutrients (e.g., vitamin B12, calcium, iron and magnesium); muscle mass and strength reductions which may impair swallowing and hormonal changes that may impair taste, hunger and thirst.
  • These changes can lead to reduced food intake & appetite, a less varied diet (older adults have the tendency to eat the same foods) and a higher risk of dehydration.

Energy requirements of older adults

  • Older adults usually need fewer calories to maintain their weight due to less mobility and muscle mass. Therefore, it is important their diet to include nutrient-dense foods to cover their energy and nutrient requirements.