6 Dietary Deficiencies in Older Adults and Precautions to Take

Joyful adult daughter greeting happy surprised senior mother in garden

For older adults, it can be difficult to get all the nutrients needed by the body to maintain health. The body becomes less efficient at absorbing vitamins and minerals with age, and some older people may find it hard to chew and swallow. Older adults also have smaller appetites, so they may need to supplement nutrients. Healthy aging involves understanding why older adults are at increased risk for developing certain deficiencies and how to address them.  

1. Vitamin D

Sunlight is a source of vitamin D, and older adults tend to spend less time outdoors due to physical limitations. A decline in kidney function that comes with age can also result in a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D works together with calcium to improve bone density. It also helps with blood sugar control and muscle function.

Foods like salmon, tuna, beef liver and egg yolks are natural sources of vitamin D. Some foods like milk, yogurt and orange juice may be fortified with vitamin D. However, it can be difficult for older adults to get enough vitamin D through diet alone. 

Drip Hydration, Boost Hydration and Rehydrate offer a variety of in-home services such as vitamin injections Orange County. This offers older adults a way to replenish their bodies with essential vitamins, such as vitamin D. 

2. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps the nervous system to function effectively and also plays a role in the production of red blood cells. It is found in animal products, such as poultry, dairy, eggs and meat. Older adults typically produce less stomach acid due to inflammatory conditions and long-term use of antacids. Because stomach acid is necessary to help to separate vitamin B12 from protein, older adults tend to absorb less of it from their diets, sometimes necessitating supplementation. 

A fortified food like a breakfast cereal may help older adults absorb the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B12. These foods offer vitamin B12 while being more easily digested.

3. Protein

Protein plays various roles in the body, such as immune health, the transport and storage of other nutrients, fluid balance, and muscle health. Aging can cause anabolic resistance, a condition affecting protein synthesis that results in reduced skeletal and muscle mass. Older adults need to consume more protein if they want to stay strong, mobile, and reduce their chances of injuries and illness. 

It is possible for older adults to meet their protein needs by eating meals rich in protein staggered throughout the day. The best sources of protein tend to be animal-based, but plant sources such as beans and legumes also provide protein. Drinking nutritional supplements between meals can also help increase protein intake. 

4. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids provide unsaturated fat that helps to support heart health, and keep the brain, immune system and lungs functioning optimally. The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish like salmon and sardines. They are also found in walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed oils. 

While an older adult may not be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, studies have linked higher intake with a reduced risk of heart disease, mild cognitive decline and some cancers. Fatty acids could also reduce the risks of age-related macular degeneration, which causes loss of vision in older people. 

5. Fiber

Most people don’t get enough fiber, and older adults are no exception. Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in plant-based foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes and beans. Many older adults suffer from constipation for various reasons, such as decreased physical activity, medication, disease and less gastric motility. Fiber helps prevent constipation and promotes regular bowel movements. It also helps support the immune system and maintains healthy cholesterol levels. 

High-fiber cereals can help older adults get enough fiber. When starting to supplement fiber to your diet, you should gradually increase intake to avoid stomach discomfort. 

6. Water

The human body consists largely of water, and staying hydrated is necessary for so many functions, such as regulating body temperature, removing waste, and transporting nutrients. Older adults often need more water than they drink due to decreased kidney function, reduced thirst sensations, immobility, or cognitive impairment. They may also take medications such as laxatives and diuretics that further increase the likelihood of dehydration. 

Apart from making sure they drink water, older adults can get water from beverages like tea and fruit juices. Eating fruits and vegetables high in water can also help. Vitamin IV therapy can also help those who struggle to stay sufficiently hydrated.


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