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UK's CRN puts nutrition and healthy ageing on the agenda

By Alex McNally , 20-Sep-2007

Policy makers and health professionals need to wake up to the importance of nutrition in healthy ageing, the UK's CRN has said as it organises a conference on the issue.

Speakers at the Council for Responsible Nutrition's (CRN) meeting will focus on healthcare needs and nutritional strategies that could help modulate age-related changes in organ functions. The conference is billed as offering a key insight into how both industry and regulation can stem the development and progression of many diseases. Some of the health issues older people may face include Age-related Macular Disease, which is the leading cause of legal blindness for people over 55 years of age in the Western world, according to AMD Alliance International. Despite the fact that approximately 25 to 30 million people worldwide are affected by AMD, awareness of the condition is low, according to AMD Alliance International. And as the generation of Baby Boomers gets older, the Alliance expects incidence to be on the rise and triple by 2025. "People are living longer and the unprecedented ageing of whole populations has wide-ranging implications for public health and society as a whole," a CRN spokesperson said. "Most important of all is the impact of good nutrition on the maintenance of health, well-being and healthy life expectancy." The link between eating well and maintaining good health has been a dynamic force for change across the industry as consumers are becoming more and more health aware. Research has also been examining what may help people live longer. Studies have linked a diet high in fruit and vegetables to helping people live longer. A 2005 University of Athens study found that a 60-year-old who follows a Mediterranean diet can expect to live a year longer than his peer who prefers foods commonly eaten in northern Europe. People living around the Mediterranean typically eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and cereals, have a moderate to high intake of fish, and eat little saturated fat, preferring instead the unsaturated olive oil. The diet would provide a high antioxidant potential. Indeed, consumer demand for healthy living and long-life has been shaping the supplement market in Europe over the last few years. In Poland, for example, the supplement market was expected to grow by 25 per cent this year alone, with a great concern about healthy living, particularly gut health, behind the increase. Supermarkets and retailers have also been pushing their offering of foods which promise healthy living. A spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association said more can be done to promote a balanced and healthy diet, but added it wasn't a case of "either or" between governments and associations. The CRN conference will focus on how vitamin D and calcium can boost bone health as well as the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease, which causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year. The benefits of vitamins and minerals on healthy ageing, cognitive performance and joint mobility will also be discussed. Speakers at the conference will explore the factors that influence nutritional status in older people and seek solutions to delay the onset of the physical and cognitive changes and to extend healthy life expectancy. The meeting, to be held in November, will be chaired by Professor Peter Aggett, Head of the School of Health and Postgraduate Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire. The conference will be held on Tuesday, November 6.

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