Good nutrition also important at an advanced age, an interview with Professor Lisette de Groot
What is good nutrition for elderly people? And also, do specific nutrients play a role in the ageing process? The FrieslandCampina Institute interviewed Lisette de Groot, Professor of Nutrition and Ageing at Wageningen University.
Factors that determine bone mass and strength
Heredity is the most important factor for strong bones. Genes determine the variation in peak bone mass, the maximum bone density, for 60-80%. Nutrition and exercise also play important roles in the development of the bones while growing (children) and in the maintenance phase of the bone tissues (adults, elderly).
Nutrients related to bone mass
The most important nutrients required for growth and development of bones with children and for healthy bones all life through are calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus. Besides these four nutrients, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C are needed for the maintenance of normal bones. Therefore it is important to get a sufficient amount of these nutrients as shown in table 1. The composition and structure of the bone tissue is mainly determined by calcium, phosphorus and protein.
The importance of nutrition in ageing people
A key feature of the changing demographics in Asia is the growing number of elderly people in the population. Estimates suggest that the number of people aged over 65 years in Asia will treble by the year 2050, including a marked increase in the number of people aged 75 years and above. As a result, geriatric syndromes including frailty, loss of muscle mass and declining cognitive function are expected to become major health concerns across the region.
Do adults need calcium?
Calcium is the most common mineral in our bodies. There is scientific proof that we need sufficient amounts of calcium in our nutrition. This is relevant for every phase in life, both old and young. Calcium supports the build-up of bone mass with children and with adults the mineral contributes to the maintenance of bones, normal blood clotting and proper functioning of muscles and nerves.
Can people with lactose intolerance consume dairy products?
Many Europeans and some populations in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia can digest lactose throughout life thanks to the presence of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. This is called lactase persistence. Most people who cannot tolerate lactose can digest about 12 grams of lactose per day. This is equal to a large glass (250 ml) of milk. Yoghurt contains less lactose and semi-hard cheeses hardly contain any lactose.
The acid balance of the body
In a number of scientific studies done fifteen years ago it was stated that an increased protein intake would adversely affect bone health as a result of an increased calcium content in the urine and a reduced calcium supply in the bones. New scientific findings do not endorse this effect.