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Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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Preventing muscle loss with protein

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Apr 16, 2020 in Aging, Malnutrition, Mobility, Muscle, Protein

Baby boomers could be changing the face of aging by seeking better health and quality of life, and embracing the wisdom that comes with age, over superficial attempts to look young but perhaps not so beautiful with botox and hair dye.

 

That’s according to industry leaders such as Isabel Gomez from Lipofoods and Eloise Joiner from Fonterra, who are happy to oblige with a “silver economy” – including preventative supplements and perhaps more importantly a spotlight on protein.

 

This is most timely as lifespans lengthen and health and independence become increasingly vital in an aging population.

 

 

Protein and muscles

 

Muscle bulk and strength naturally decline with age, as the tissues regenerate more slowly. Without efforts to stay strong and healthy, this can accelerate into sarcopenia, a prevalent, muscle wasting condition with multiple dire health outcomes.

 

Poor wound healing, increased risk of falls, hospitalisation, loss of independence and mortality are just some of the ripple effects caused by declining muscle mass.

 

It’s well known that protein is important for helping to maintain muscle mass, with evidence that older adults benefit from 1g protein per kilogram of body weight per day – which is higher than current recommendations of 0.8g/kg body weight.

 

Some researchers say the focus should be on consuming 25-30g protein per meal for optimum muscle protein synthesis.

 

In older adults, however, muscle protein synthesis is less efficient if protein and carbohydrates are eaten together. The researchers suggest this could be improved by supplementing mixed-nutrient meals with leucine.

 

The importance of this can’t be underestimated – and the benefits of muscle mass are thought to extend beyond muscles to give protection from diabetes, heart disease, poor cognition, respiratory problems and even breast cancer.

 

Protein can also help protect against other conditions including dementia and osteoporosis.

 

While dietary protein is important in the first instance, protein powder can help boost intake between meals in people struggling with poor appetite, weak teeth or swallowing problems.

 

Beyond protein

 

It’s not just about protein, though. Poor quality diets have been linked to weakness and fragility in aging, regardless of protein or energy intake. Even one extra meal a day can halve the risk of dying in people with hip fractures.

 

Insufficient dietary nourishment can lead to malnutrition, a common and often overlooked problem in older adults that can be addressed with regular meals and snacks high in protein and energy, as well as ensuring dietary intake from all the food groups and regular hydration.

 

Another largely overlooked lifestyle nugget that can make all the difference between healthy and unhealthy muscle mass – and overall health – with aging is physical activity.

 

Whether this is fast walking, Tai Chi, dancing, cycling, swimming or personalised movement, every bit helps.

 

Ideally, the World Health Organisation recommends that all adults should do at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity heart-pumping exercise or a combination of both.

 

 

References

 

https://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/a-growing-silver-economy-industry-spotlights-protein-for-seniors-as-prevention-is-focalized.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760315/

https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2018/protein-needs-fd.html

 

 

 


 

Cost of Malnutrition 

Our Cost of Malnutrition report outlines the problem of malnutrition and its various costs – both financial and physical – and offers a guide to its identification and management.

Download your free report HERE

 


 

Exergaming a salve for aging hazards

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Mar 12, 2020 in Aging, Exercise, Technology

In a growing trend to harness the positive potential of technology for our aging population, researchers have created video games for older adults that take exercise and multitasking to new dimensions.

 

One study had people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, riding stationary bikes while playing video games, improving their memory and other complex cognitive functions.

 

Another team used interactive video games to improve people’s reflexes and quick-stepping to reduce risk of falls – another major problem with aging – and are following it up with a gambling-style approach to get players addicted to exercise.

 

 

Chasing dragons and exotic fruits

 

Building on previous success improving cognitive health with interactive exergaming, Cay Anderson-Hanley from the University of Queensland recruited three groups of older adults with MCI.

 

For six months, two groups road along a scenic virtual reality bike path or chased dragons and collected coins on stationary bikes placed at several different sites and completed cognitive tests.

 

Their results were compared with another group that played video games on a laptop without pedalling, and a previous research cohort that rode stationary bikes without gaming.

 

Both the first two groups showed improvements in verbal memory, physical health and the brain’s executive functions – higher order cognitive abilities.

 

“Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It is key to remaining independent in later life,” says Anderson-Hanley. “For example, it allows you to cook two things on the stove at once. It makes sure you don’t forget that you are boiling the water while also having something in the oven.”

 

The stepping game, “StepKinnection”, is a Wii-style program that gets players travelling the world collecting exotic fruits from 32 different countries by stepping quickly on the items as they appear. Repeating this action while gradually increasing speed and difficulty improves reflexes and balance.

 

The game turned out to a be popular way to get active, and players showed 17 per cent improvement in reflexes, ability to take quick steps and walking ability.

 

Encouraged by these findings, lead researcher Jaime Garcia, from the University of Technology in Sydney, is now linking a computerised Solitaire card game to physical activity to see if rewards for moving around encourage older adults to be more active.

 

Their activity levels are monitored with a Fitbit activity tracker and if they go for a walk they are given money that can be used to play Solitaire.

 

“In this approach, we are trying to make exercise one of the game mechanics. If you go for a walk, we give you money and that money can be used in the game,” Garcia told Australian Ageing Agenda.

 

If they want to play, they must exercise or miss out. And the more they walk, the more money they get to play, which Garcia hopes will get them addicted to the game.

 

 

Lifestyle solutions

 

These novel approaches underpin a global imperative to get people more active – a critical lifestyle approach to aging well, especially important at a time when people are moving less.

 

It’s established that staying active is one of the cornerstones of preventing dementia, and that fast walking is linked to healthier aging. Even people who are virtually immobilised with dementia can benefit from personalised movement.

 

And although some are trying to find easy alternatives like taking a pill, there’s just no substitute for moving our limbs, strengthening muscles and getting the blood gushing through our veins.

 

 

References

 

Image source: Cay Anderson-Hanley

https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/2020/02/21/trial-aims-to-get-seniors-walking-to-improve-their-gaming/

https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/2016/02/22/stepping-game-pilot-shows-promising-results-in-fight-against-falls/

https://nationalseniors.com.au/news/latest/exergaming-may-help-alzheimers

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180515081728.htm

 

 

 


 

Cost of Malnutrition 

Our Cost of Malnutrition report outlines the problem of malnutrition and its various costs – both financial and physical – and offers a guide to its identification and management.

Download your free report HERE

 


 

Plants, protein and vegetarians

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 26, 2020 in Aging, Protein, Sustainability

“But where do you get your protein from?” This is a common question of vegetarians, perpetuated by a long-standing myth that if you don’t eat your meat you will become weak and emaciated.

 

This myth has been well and truly busted – but it doesn’t mean that people who eschew meat can rest on their laurels. Like all older adults, vegetarians need to be mindful of meeting their protein needs.

 

 

Protein matters

 

It is true that we need protein, even more so with aging. While Australian guidelines spout 0.75g/kg bodyweight per day, this falls short of international guidelines stipulating 1.2g/kg for older adults – and recent evidence putting it as high as 1.5g/kg.

 

These levels help counteract diminishing lean muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging, reducing risk of sarcopenia and associated falls, fractures, hospital admissions, declining independence and mortality.

 

And it’s not just muscles that need protein. These industrious amino acid assemblages support wound healing, bone density, immunity, lung function and cognition.

 

So how do vegetarians get theirs?

 

 

Unravelling plant protein

 

When combined with exercise, research shows it doesn’t matter which type of protein people eat – plant, animal or otherwise – to boost muscle health.

 

But while plant sources comprise 40% of the world’s protein intake, Australians get 60% of theirs from animal origins.

 

And although the Australian Guide to Health Eating recommends legumes as a primary protein source for vegetarians, a review found that legumes constitute a meagre 0.44% of diets in aged care facilities – served with meat.

 

Even for non-vegetarians, legumes are a no-brainer – they are cheap, versatile, packed with nutrients and fibre and one of the best solutions to soft-textured diets for older adults with swallowing or chewing difficulties.

 

The scrumptious, wholesome meals that can be cooked with legumes are only limited by the imagination, ranging from a vast range of soups and vegetable patties to dals, dips and casseroles.

 

Other non-meat sources of protein abound too, including eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, wholegrains, seeds and hemp.

 

For older adults with higher protein needs due to poor appetite, declining muscle mass and strength or illness, eggs and dairy (cream or milk powder) can be used to fortify meals and make a great base for snacks.

 

Beyond protein, evidence suggests that a good quality diet is most important for preventing frailty and fragility, providing all the nutrients, polyphenols and fibre essential for good health.

 

After addressing dietary needs, some nutrition supplements might be advisable. Vegetarians and vegans would benefit from an algal source of the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA that is consumed directly through deep-sea fish.

 

Vegans may need supplementation to meet requirements for Vitamins D and B12. Pea protein can be used as a concentrated protein source where needed. Contrary to popular opinion, there is plenty of iron in plant foods – including legumes.

 

 

What it means for residential aged care

 

With a growing population embracing various diets without animal-sourced food – for health, ethical or environmental reasons – aged care facilities need to step up and leave the antiquated “meat and three veg” behind.

 

Special diets aside, the variety and quality of food provided in residential care is in dire need of an overhaul to address nutritional, cultural and personal needs and preferences in a way that enhances appetite and the social bonding that can only come from sharing a tasty meal in a pleasant environment.

 

 

References

 

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/4/protein-and-vegetarian-diets

https://www.nutritionsociety.org/papers/can-plant-based-proteins-support-healthy-musculoskeletal-ageing

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-diet-aging/cutting-back-on-vegetable-protein-tied-to-unhealthy-aging-idUSKCN1VB1ZB

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/09/counting-beans-why-2020-should-be-the-year-of-the-legume?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://theconversation.com/why-iron-is-such-an-important-part-of-your-diet-69974

 

 

 


 

Cost of Malnutrition 

Our Cost of Malnutrition report outlines the problem of malnutrition and its various costs – both financial and physical – and offers a guide to its identification and management.

Download your free report HERE

 


 

Slow walkers could age faster

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 20, 2019 in Aging, Exercise, Mobility

Middle-aged people who walk slowly age more quickly, according to new research, while fast walkers are physically and mentally younger.

 

The study, conducted in nearly 1,000 New Zealanders aged 45, found that slow walkers also had older looking faces – independently rated from photos – and smaller, older-looking brains.

 

People with the slowest gait performed more poorly on a range of physical tests including grip strength, balance, coordination and two-minute step tests and reported more physical limitations in their daily lives.

 

Rate of aging measures showed they had been growing old five years faster from the age of 26 than those with the fastest walking speed. Slow walkers had other signs of accelerated aging compared to fast walkers such as unhealthier lungs, teeth and immune systems.

 

Added to that, they had poorer neuropsychological functioning across a range of cognitive assessments including working memory, processing speed, verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning.

 

 

Tell-tale signs start early

 

Even more unexpected, the study found that walking speed at 45 years could be predicted by childhood cognitive performance on tests of intelligence, language and motor skills.

 

Participants, born in the 1970s, had taken part in the longitudinal Dunedin study since the age of three, providing regular tests of physical health and brain function as well as brain scans.

 

“This study found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age,” Professor Terrie Moffitt told the BBC.

 

The team said the results were “an amazing surprise”, and the first time walking speed earlier in life has been linked to premature aging.

 

 

Walking in older age

 

Doctors often measure walking speed in older adults over 65 as an indicator of general health, as it is linked to muscle strength, lung function, balance, spine strength and vision.

 

These reflect the importance of mobility for remaining independent and retaining quality of life.

 

More seriously, slower gait in this age group has also been associated with poorer rehabilitation, greater incidence of diseases – including heart disease and dementia – and shorter life span.

 

“Doctors know that slow walkers in their 70s and 80s tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” Moffitt told Medical News Today.

 

It just goes to show that age is relative – and it’s never too late to start moving, although clearly the sooner the better.

 

A brisk walking pace is generally considered as 100 steps per minute, or around five kilometres per hour – but of course this is relative to people’s fitness levels.

 

A good guide is to walk faster than you would normally, at a pace that makes you breathe a bit harder and your heart beat faster.

 

When you get a little sweaty and out of breath, this is considered moderate-intensity activity, which has several known health benefits such as improving balance and coordination, and keeping heart, lungs and circulation healthy.

 

In turn, this lowers the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. It could also strengthen bones and muscles and help prevent osteoporosis, although a range of different activities are recommended for optimal benefits.

 

The key is to find enjoyable walking routes – alone or with a friend, partner or walking group if that’s more motivating – and ways to get active that are fun and enjoyable.

 

Just pick up the pace up a little.

 

 

References

 

https://www.sciencealert.com/there-s-a-strange-lifelong-link-between-being-a-slow-walker-and-ageing-faster

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326648.php

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50015982

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/walking-speed-survival/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3080184/

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/average-walking-speed#average-speed-by-age

 

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