Nutrient Requirements of the Older Adult

Normal aging coupled with chronic disease and medications adds uncertainty to nutrient requirements. The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) define two age categories for older adults (51-70 and over 70), addressing the cumulative physiologic and functional changes that occur over adult life [6]. Although food intake and energy needs decline, other nutrient needs do not, emphasizing the need for nutrient-rich foods.

Energy Requirements

Energy intake presents a delicate balance between unwanted weight gain and inappropriate weight loss. Basal calories fall 1-2% per decade over adult life, and for sedentary older adults, basal needs may equal 75% or more of total energy expenditure. Energy intake drops by about 450 kcal in women and 750 kcal in men between ages 20 and 70 [7]. Estimated energy needs for people over age 50 are 2000-2800 kcal for men and 1600-2200 kcal for women, depending on activity level [8], but many persons fall below 1600 kcal, making it difficult to supply required amounts of essential nutrients. At least 130 g of carbohydrate is needed each day to provide glucose for optimum brain function [6]. Fat should make up 20-35% of total energy, with the upper range supplying additional energy if food intake declines. While some patients need to lower fat and energy intake to prevent unwanted weight gain, others are influenced by public health messages directed toward younger overweight individuals and reduce energy and fat to inappropriately low levels.

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