• Marcus Baxby

Looking after the Elderly

The elderly population is one that affects us all, both because we have grandparents or parents who are approaching their 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s, and because we will one day be of that age.

In terms of immunity – making sure that elderly people have enough energy availability – i.e that they eat enough in total, is an important consideration.

Making sure they get enough calories, and also enough micronutrients from fruit and veg, is key.

Reduction in energy intake is common in the elderly population, and weight management, preventing excessive weight loss, is therefore important.

Nutrition also plays an important role in many common ailments associated with old age.

Sarcopenia, for example, is a loss of muscle mass and strength, resulting in loss of function and increased fall risk.

Therefore, in order to mitigate these risks, we can try to retain muscle mass by getting adequate protein in each meal.

The main reason for muscle mass decline is anabolic resistance.

What is clear is that, as we age, our muscles become more resistant to ‘anabolic stimuli’ – meaning stuff that would normally make our muscles grow no longer has that effect. Anabolic stimuli include protein, and resistance exercise.

Translated into English, this means that an older adult needs more protein per serving to elicit the muscle building response.

Where a normal 60kg female would need around 18g of protein per meal to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (requred to build muscle), an elderly person may need 24 – 42g, or even more, protein in one meal to get the same response.

So send Granny some whey protein. Get her to take two scoops once daily.

Even one ‘big’ protein serving per day is better than lots of little ones.

Osteoporosis is another common condition in the elderly, in which bone mineral density leads to increased risk of fractures.

Calcium, and Vitamin D therefore become increasingly important.

Fish oils, calcium and especially Vitamin D supplementation is also useful for prevention of both sarcopenia and osteoporosis, as well as cognitive decline and general immunity. Fish oils have been shown to improve sensitivity to amino acids at high dosages, so supplementation of 2g or more per day is recommended.

Short and sweet, but hopefully useful stuff.

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