This month saw the launch of the Healthy Ageing APAC Summit in Singapore on 12-13 June, covering a smorgasbord of topics related to nutrition and healthy ageing throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Currently more than half of the world’s over-60s live in the Asia-Pacific. And the region’s number of older adults is expected to double from 547 million in 2016 to nearly 1.3 billion by 2050.
The summit was launched to explore how the nutrition and food industry “can meet the needs of the rapidly ageing populations of today, and more crucially, tomorrow.”
Nikki King attended the summit. “There was just so much information and networking, it really was a fabulous couple of days! I’m very lucky to have been able to attend and learn a lot.” Here are some highlights.
Presenter Chin Juen Seow from Euromonitor pointed out that healthy living has become a major trend – and not just in ageing.
He suggests this is driven by an array of social and cultural influences spanning economics, population change, technological advancement, concerns about the environment and sustainability, and changing values: “Health is the new wealth.”
As a result, 37 percent of packaged food sales in Asia are presented with a health focus, and this is predicted to increase.
Dr Lesley Braun from Blackmores presented new research suggesting that omega-3s may benefit sarcopenia. Bolstered by animal studies that show increased stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, human trials provide some evidence of improved muscle-related biomarkers in older adults after taking omega-3 supplements.
Dementia is now the second highest cause of Australian deaths. It is risky and expensive for pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – according to Dr Shawn Watson from Senescence Life Science, with a 99.6% failure rate of clinical trials. Their focus on amyloids could be the limiting factor.
Increasing research shows that nutrition and sleep can support healthy brain function with ageing, preventing risk of Alzheimer’s via several biological mechanisms including reduced inflammation and oxidative stress. Watson reported positive results from supplementation with turmeric and ginseng.
Alzheimer’s disease has also been nicknamed “diabetes type 3.” When people eat too much sugar, cells are bombarded with insulin, which tells them to take in the glucose for energy. Over time the cells become insulin resistant, leading to diabetes and a host of related health problems. Research has linked a lack of insulin to the formation of plaques associated with Alzheimer’s – one more reason to avoid excess sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Accordingly, the glycemic index (GI) was developed to rank foods by how quickly sugar is released into the blood stream. Kathy Usic from the Glycaemic Index Foundation told the audience about an impending global roll-out of the Low GI Symbol on food packaging to help address the soaring epidemic of chronic disease.
Amidst a wave of related research on low carbohydrate/high protein diets, a study is currently underway to investigate the effects of a low-GI high-protein diet on pre-diabetes/type 2 diabetes prevention. Watch this space!
Aging brings rewards and challenges. It can be a fulfilling time of rest and relaxation; enjoying respite from a life of working and raising children. It is also a time when the body starts its graceful decline. Unfortunately, this decline can bring various health problems, for instance loss of muscle mass. Age-related loss of muscle mass and strength is called sarcopenia.
Functional loss of muscle strength with age is not only associated with diminished quality of life and problems with activities of daily living; it can have serious effects including increased risk of falls, fractures, disability, hospitalisation and death. As well as aging, chronic diseases like diabetes factor among sarcopenia causes.
A recent review now suggests sarcopenia could even lead to type 2 diabetes.
Around 1 in 6 Australians over 65 suffer from diabetes, increasing to nearly 1 in 5 adults over 85. Type 2 diabetes makes up 90% of all cases, affecting one million Australians, 90% of whom are over 40. Unlike type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, type 2 is associated with unhealthy lifestyle factors like poor diet, inactivity, smoking and obesity, and is therefore preventable.
Diabetes happens when there is too much glucose in the blood – either because the pancreas stops producing enough insulin (needed by most tissues to take up glucose), and/or because cells lose their capacity to take up glucose (become insulin resistant).
This can happen when the body is bombarded with too much sugar or refined carbohydrates, and the glucose receptors that let sugar into cells go on strike. The pancreas keeps producing insulin to try and lower blood sugar, and eventually wears itself out.
The body then goes into overdrive trying to keep blood sugar levels down, and the strain can cause a plethora of serious problems include heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, nerve damage and poor wound healing – which can also result in amputation of limbs.
Sarcopenia research has been dominated by functional outcomes. But a recent review drew attention to possible metabolic consequences, focussing on various pathways that could lead to diabetes:
Therefore, the importance of preventing or reducing muscle loss and chronic disease with age cannot be understated. Prime targets are diet quality – particularly protein and vitamin D for muscle and generally a healthy diet to prevent chronic disease – and appropriately tailored physical activity.