Monday, May 10, 2010

Sort out the diets of the elderly

I am increasingly aware of how poor (according to my standards) the diet of lots of old people is. The ones I know seem to take in too much cake, bread, pasta, biscuits, sweets, soups and too little meat, eggs and dairy. They have been brainwashed by too much conventional wisdom to avoid fat and therefore they are getting too little protein and fat.

There is an interesting report here that old people who consume a higher level of dietary protein are less likely to suffer hip fractures than those whose daily dietary protein intake is less.

In addition to increased dietary protein, Dr. Hannan says regular exercise to build stronger muscles and better balance, as well as other falls prevention strategies, such as reducing hazards in the home, can help protect seniors against falls and hip fractures.


Daniel said...

I don't think they are eating these crap because they are fat phobic. They are eating sweets and pasta because they like them. We can blame the food pyramid for its silly recommendations but it is pointless. An average person don't care about these recommendations, they eat what it s cheap and 'delicious'. If everybody keep their diet close to the not so perfect food pyramid they would be much healthier. I know it's not even close to perfect but it is still better than the average joe's diet.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

I agree with you 100%. The elderly, or at least the ones with any health consciousness remaining, avoid fat and protein that they associate with fat. For example, I offered some macadamia nuts to an elderly woman, but she refused them saying "there was too much fat." If people were just eating what was "delicious," they would eat the fatty things too.


Anonymous said...


There is often a split between what motivates the elderly compared with what motivates younger individuals. Younger people tend to perceive themselves as 10 foot tall & bullet proof and will take any health recommendations secondary to taste, pleasure, social standing, etc.

The elderly however, are often faced with their own mortality, whether that be via their own personal health status or via the illness or death of a friend or relative. These people are more likely to believe their primary health care provider if they are told they should avoid fat or meats due to CVD/Cancer risk etc.

This sort of thing is seen clearly when you look at motivating factors for smoking cessation by age. A young man is more likely to quit smoking if you tell him it makes him smell and women find him unattractive. An elderly man is more likely to quit smoking if he has witnessed a friend or relative die from a smoking related illness or they have had a scare themselves.

So I agree with Chris & Cynthia that they are more likely to be avoiding fat & protein due to the false perception that it is better for them.

mike said...

Older people who have any awareness about health and food do tend to avoid fats and meat in general. Most older people I know (I'm 60) don't give it much thought. they are simply confused by all the competing claims and don't care about the food pyramid at all.
I do know a few boomers (50's-60's) who are health concious. they tend to work out in some fashion but most are still over weight. The low fat/aerobics paradigm still reigns, although strength training is getting more popular.
Most older people who know about "paleo" diets, including me, think of it as just another fad.

David Duizer said...

It's so true...the brain-washing has gone too far. We need to educate our elderly. We need to educate our small-town elderly!

Anonymous said...

Before my grandmother passed earlier this year (at age 97) I made sure she got lots of extra fat by adding at least half a can of coconut milk to her diet every day. She raised, slaughtered and ate a pig every year through her late 80s, so she was blissfully immune to anyone telling her to eat low fat.

Indomitable Spirit said...

I don't know that I think that this has that much to do with information / misinformation / the food pyramid etc. I think there are other factors here (at least in the UK):

Poverty - fresh meat in particular is relatively expensive. For an old person surviving on the state pension, quantity is often a much higher priority than quality. When supermarkets are selling 'ready' meals at £1 each or 4 for £3, no wonder you'll find old people opting for these!

Preparation - I've watched various relatives prepare less and less fresh food from scratch the older they get. Physical and even mental degenerations mean that some older people simply can't stand in the kitchen long enough to prepare and cook quality meals, so will revert to 'ready' meals, sweets, biscuits etc.

Prior habit - my mother was 9 years old when WW2 started. She has often talked of the food rationing and what families did to eke out the meagre supplies. There was certainly little meat but an awful lot of soup. My mother still leans towards these preferences at the age of 80. You may need to look to these acquired habits for some explanations of diet in the elderly population.