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Category Archives: Elderly

Categories Children, Elderly, Healthy eating, In the news, Nutrient deficiencies, Nutrition, Uncategorized

Nutrient deficiencies are sweeping across Britain

Millions of adults and children in the UK are risking poor health and even serious illness because of major shortfalls in their nutrition, according to an important new report out today

The researchers found that a quarter of women have inadequate intakes of iron, more than 50% lack the antioxidant selenium and nearly one in 10 men are low in magnesium. Intakes of iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine and selenium are woefully low in adolescent girls and one in five pre-school children have abnormally low iron stores. A significant number of elderly people are also iron deficient. The team discovered that blood levels of vitamin D are too low to sustain normal bone health in a quarter of adults while fish intakes have declined in the last decade and are now too low to meet recommendations for omega-3 essential fatty acids.

The new report- ‘Towards a Healthier Britain 2010’ – reviewed the key areas where nutrition could be improved, with independent nutrition experts Dr Carrie Ruxton and Dr Pamela Mason examining the evidence from national dietary surveys. In addition, more than 70 scientific papers were explored looking at the potential role of vitamin supplementation.

Time to think about a multivitamin?

Categories Elderly, Latest Research, Memory

B Vitamins and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

A study from The University of Oxford study shows that daily B vitamin supplements can halve the rate of brain atrophy in elderly people who suffer from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).


The two year randomised double-blind clinical trial is the largest to study the effect of B vitamins on MCI and is excitingly one of the first disease-modifying trials in the Alzheimer’s field to show positive results in humans. The study assessed the progression of disease by measuring brain atrophy rate following 168 volunteers with mild memory problems, half of whom took the combined high dose B vitamin tablets for two years and the other half a placebo tablet. MRI scans were used to measure rate of brain shrinkage over the two-year period.

The research team set out to see whether taking supplements of the B vitamins required for maintaining and lowering homocysteine levels could slow the higher rate of brain atrophy observed in MCI or Alzheimer’s.

They found that on average the brains of those taking the folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 treatment shrank at a rate of 0.76% a year, while those in the placebo group had a mean brain shrinkage rate of 1.08%. Significantly the subjects with the highest levels of homocysteine benefited most, showing atrophy rates on treatment that were half of those on placebo.

Co-leader of the trial, Professor David Smith of the Department of Pharmacology, Oxford University, explained, “It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease in many people who suffer from mild memory problems. Today there are about 1.5 million elderly in UK, 5 million in USA and 14 million in Europe with such memory problems.”

The study was co-funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive for the Trust said, “These are very important results, with B vitamins now showing a prospect of protecting some people from Alzheimer’s in old age. The strong findings must inspire an expanded trial to follow people expected to develop Alzheimer’s, and we hope for further success.”

High homocysteine levels are prevalent in Alzheimer’s sufferers who also commonly have a low B12 and folate nutritional status. This combination can be a predictor to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and age-related memory problems. High homocysteine is associated with more rapid progression of the disease and may damage both the brain and arteries supplying blood to the brain.

Categories Elderly, In the news, Latest Research

Meals-on-wheels lack vital nutrients

Research carried out by Trinity College Dublin has found that meals-on-wheels dinners are lacking in vital nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamn D and calcium. As a result, the report stated that over a third of reciepients were malnourished or at risk of nutrient deficiency.

The average meal contributed only 25% of the daily requirement of vitamin C and folate (vitamin B9), 21% of clacium and 12% of vitamin D. Each meal chould contain 33% of each. The researchers point out that recipients of the service can’t shop because of limited mobility and may not be able to cook. They suggest that the validity of the service must be questionned if meals don’t have adequate nutrition.

Unlike in America, minimum nutritional requirements for meals-on-wheels are not set, leaving service providers to set their own nutritional standards. As a result, the researchers found wide disparity in the quality of service between different agencies. Many services are run on a voluntary basis and may be overstretched.

The Health Service Executive subsidises every meal, but at different levels throughout the country. Ciara O’Dwyer, one of the Trinity Researchers, suggests that funding should be more uniform to avoid variation around the country, and that more government support should be offered to train providers to meet the nutritional requrements of older people.

The elderly, in particular, need a nutrient dense diet. The requirement for energy decreases with age, so people may meet energy needs without fulfilling nutrient requirements. Bone building nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, vitamin K, magnesium and manganese are vital to reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, which increases with age as bone density decreases. Fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds will provide these important nutrients. 

Immune function also decreases with age, and our cells are more vulnerable to damage from free radicals. The elderly should increase their intake of vitamins A, C and E and minerals zinc and selenium. Digestion and absorption may also be less efficient, meaning that older people need to be particularly vigilant about taking in extra nutrients. Minerals such as iron may be particularly difficult to absorb, leading to an increased risk of anaemia; this is exacerbated when older people drink a lot of tea.

 A plant based diet, rich in a variety of multi coloured fruit and vegetables (particularly dark green leafies) and supplemented with lean red meat, poultry, oily fish and dairy products will allow people to meet their nutritional requirements in older age and maintain energy, brain function and bone health.

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