The effects of age: an important nutritional evolution to understand.
The older you get, the more the metabolism slows down and the body changes , particularly under the effect of changes in hormonal balance. In terms of micronutrition, this results in particular in a lower performance of the digestive system and a lower real absorption of ingested minerals and vitamins.
This can result in increased fatigue, low morale, and less noticeably, accelerated aging due to poorer tissue renewal.
Micronutrient supplements are then an easy way to ensure optimal coverage of needs, especially since taking medication often interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Consumed with reason and moderation, the positive effects are there.
Food supplements, definition
Food supplements are defined as “foodstuffs whose purpose is to supplement a conventional diet. They constitute a concentrated source of nutrients or other substances having a nutritional or physiological effect”.
Intended to be taken orally, they are packaged in doses in the form of tablets, capsules, lozenges or ampoules.
There are generally two main families of food supplements :
- Micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, Omega 3/DHA-EPA type fatty acids)
- Comfort or functional supplements , generally based on plants that specifically stimulate a particular function (sleep, detox, etc.).
The term "micronutrient" refers to all the elements which are essential for the proper functioning of the body and which act in low doses (a few grams or milligrams): mainly vitamins and minerals which are also referred to as trace elements.
They differ from macronutrients such as proteins, lipids or carbohydrates, which constitute the basis of the diet for the supply of energy and the renewal of tissues (muscles, organs, etc.).
The 5 vitamins and minerals to favor in the elderly
Many dietary supplements exist on the market.
In the elderly who need to maintain a good immune system and prevent possible deficiencies, it is reasonable to pay increased attention to the following vitamins and minerals:
Essential for women, it works to prevent bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis after menopause. Older men are also affected, even if bone loss occurs later.
Taken in combination with vitamin D, its absorption is optimized.
On the menu, we include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, etc.
This element plays a key role in immunity, healing, taste and smell.
It is also involved in a hundred enzymatic reactions of the body.
Zinc is found in oysters, meat or poultry.
Elderly vegetarians are therefore particularly affected by this supplementation.
It helps regulate blood sugar levels in seniors and would be beneficial in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Similarly, its impact is positive on bone density, blood pressure, nerve and muscle functions.
The elderly, often poly-medicated, follow heavy treatments inducing the inhibition of magnesium absorption. Hence the need to consume this type of nutrient in addition to the diet.
On the plate, we add nuts, seeds and/or whole grains.
- Vitamin B12 (or cobalamin):
Its role is important in the prevention of anemia and memory loss, which are common in old age. It helps keep nerve and blood cells healthy.
Vitamin B12 is naturally present in meat and dairy products. Nevertheless, it is wise to add a supplement to the daily menus of seniors.
- Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA:
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA for seniors are now well known, especially on the heart and brain.
They also reduce dry eyes, alleviate pain and complications related to rheumatoid arthritis and act on depressive symptoms.
Daily supplementation with DHA (ideally of plant origin, or otherwise from fish oils) is good practice to minimize the effects of nerve cell aging. Recent work from the University of Louvain even gives hope that DHA limits the development of cancer cells...
We should also mention vitamins C, K, folic, selenium, iron, beta-carotene, probiotics...
It is possible to find a concentration of many nutrients in just 1 multivitamin capsule!
Food supplements, AMD and the elderly
Age-related macular degeneration or AMD corresponds to a degradation of part of the retina (the macula), which can lead to the loss of central vision.
This disease affects people over 50 , it is the leading cause of visual impairment in the elderly.
Diet seems to play an important role, thanks to intakes rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-3: fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel) and fruits and vegetables.
Similarly, intakes of vitamins C, E and zinc and selenium could reduce the risk of progression of the disease.
To summarize the overall situation of dietary adaptations of seniors*, we can say that it is necessary to limit the consumption of energy foods (lipids, carbohydrates) to take into account the lower energy needs and limit the risks of weight gain, but at the same time , maintain or slightly increase (+ 10%) protein consumption.
This is intended to limit muscle wasting and ensure proper tissue renewal, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that boost the body and are less well absorbed.
In summary, in order to avoid deficiencies and maintain good health, more and more active seniors consume food supplements with positive feelings in the short and medium term.
Here are 3 important tips to apply before consuming food supplements, avoid overdoses and enjoy their benefits:
- Anticipate: It is always easier to maintain a good nutritional balance than to correct past deficiencies, the effects of which are not always reversible. Take for example the effects of prolonged deficiencies of vitamin B12 on nervous tissue, or of calcium and vitamin D on bones.
- Consulting a nutrition specialist is a good investment to guide you in building your new balanced diet. Depending on your lifestyle and consumption (including vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian) the professional will be able to build a coherent and adapted program with you.
- Choose a “Made in France” laboratory and products declared to the DGCCRF (Directorate General for Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention). It instills confidence in compliance with French and European standards and procedures. This is a very useful precaution for consuming safe and healthy products.
*the term 'seniors' and the recommendations in this article apply from Menopause/Andropause and as long as the person is autonomous in terms of food. Geriatric nutrition is often of a different nature because it must also adapt to the pathologies and treatments of the patient and as such, falls under medical competence (nutritionist doctor).