Older adults often have different nutritional needs than younger adults, due to reduced physical activity, changes in metabolism, or age-related loss of bone and muscle mass. Chronic health conditions, the use of multiple medications, and changes in body composition can all affect the nutrient needs of seniors. It is important for them to follow a healthy eating pattern and make every bite count. A study conducted in an elderly population found that high iron stores were much more common than iron deficiencies (1).
As such, older adults usually do not take nutritional supplements containing iron unless they have been diagnosed with iron deficiency. It is important to determine the underlying cause of iron deficiency, rather than simply treating it with iron supplements. The use of supplements in the elderly population was discussed in a panel discussion that emphasized several specific concerns and the need for research that takes into account those concerns. After trying Food First, oral nutritional supplements can be considered when a patient is identified as having a medium or high risk of malnutrition, ideally in combination with Food First. The use of tube feeding in people with chronic diseases is controversial, especially when used for people with dementia. Eating diets that are low in salt and high in potassium may especially benefit older adults, as sensitivity to the effects of salt increases with age.
Enteral (tube) feeding should be considered for people who cannot eat or drink safely, such as those with dysphagia after a stroke. A meta-analysis of 36 publications that examined the relationship between vitamin C intake and vitamin C plasma concentrations concluded that older adults (60 to 96 years old) have significantly lower plasma levels of vitamin C after a given vitamin C intake compared to younger people (15 to 65 years old), suggesting that older adults need more vitamin C. Daily supplementation with 2000 IU (50 μg) of vitamin D is especially important for seniors because aging is associated with a reduced ability to synthesize vitamin D in the skin after exposure to the sun. If you don't eat fish regularly, consider taking a two-gram fish oil supplement several times a week. The guidelines of the European Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ESPEN) recommend that its use be considered in early and moderate dementia, but not in terminal dementia.
The eligibility criteria for Special Authorities provide clear guidance on who should be considered receiving oral nutritional supplements. When considering whether it is appropriate for a patient to switch from a liquid feed ready for sipping to a powdered one, the main considerations are: the purpose for which the patient needs the feed in sips, the nutrient density of the feed in sips, the hidden costs and the convenience. Kramer provided significant insight into the many considerations and complications of using scientific evidence to draw conclusions and make recommendations. It is important for seniors to understand their nutritional needs and how dietary supplements can help them meet those needs. It is also important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any dietary supplement to ensure it is safe and appropriate for their individual needs.