Ireland’s authorities update nutrition advice for the country’s elderly

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

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©iStock

Related tags: Fsai, elderly, over 65s

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has updated nutritional guidance for the over 65s in a move to improve the quality of life for an age group that in 2016, increased by 19% in Ireland to 630,800.

Published earlier this week, the FSAI’s scientific report​updates general age-related advice such as the need for a more protein and to stay hydrated as well as the consumption of specific supplements and fortified foods.

“This report sets out a number of science-based recommendations that will underpin national guidelines being prepared by the Department of Health, to support optimal nutritional status and health of older adults in Ireland,”​ says Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI.

“Due to considerable variations in the ageing process, food-based dietary guidelines are best tailored to functional capacity rather than chronological age.”

According to the Authority, the over 65s represent the fastest growing age group in Ireland, having increased by 19% in the 2016 census to some 630,800 people (13.8% of total population), with expected ongoing increases to a predicted 1.6 million older citizens by 2051.

With extended life, comes an increased risk of age-related illnesses along with a physical decline, such as decreased muscle mass; a decline in physical activity; and accumulation of body fat associated with obesity and/or frailty.

The report take this into consideration as the guidelines revolve around the best ways to preserve muscle mass and skeletal strength, both critical to maintaining functional autonomy and independence.

Ten key nutrients

In total ten key nutrients are examined with a full set of recommendations given for the intake of protein, carbohydrate, fibre, fat, B vitamins (folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and riboflavin), vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron and zinc.

Other recommendations from the report includes an adequate intake of water for older adults at risk of ‘low intake’ dehydration. The report advises healthy women and men to drink 1.6 litres (ltrs) and 2ltrs per day respectively.

The report also advises a daily 15 microgram (µg) vitamin D supplement is now recommended by the Department of Health for all older adults in Ireland, which varies according to ability to obtain some of this vitamin from sunlight exposure.

The report’s FSAI’s Scientific Committee also advocates the consumption of fortified foods as a source of B vitamins (B12, folate, B6 and riboflavin) and vitamin D; whilst unsweetened orange juice, salads, fruit and vegetables are reliable daily food sources of vitamin C.

“There is a noticeable difference in functional ability of older adults alive today compared even with 30 years ago, and it is common sense to support older people living healthy productive lives through health strategies based on changing nutritional needs as we all get older,”​ says Ita Saul, Chair of the FSAI’s Public Health Nutrition Subcommittee.

Tea & salt

Other recommendations contained in the report, advises that strong tea should only be consumed between meals and not during meals, as it interferes with absorption of iron and zinc.

Salt consumption is to be kept to a minimum as sense of taste diminishes with age and can lead to increased salt intake. The report advises consumption of salty foods should be avoided and alternatives such as herbs and spices can be used to increase flavour.

“On retirement, people in good health can look forward to entering the ‘golden years’ of their third age, filled with many possibilities and interests.

The preservation of muscle mass and skeletal strength are both critical to maintaining functional autonomy and independence as we get older. This report looks at the positive role nutritional intake can have in this population group to enable them to live life, and to live it to the full,”​ Saul adds.

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