Health and Nutrition

Older Australians

older australians

Eating well becomes even more important with age as it plays a significant role in the maintenance of good health and in the ability to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.  In addition, eating a good quality diet has been linked to living a longer life. However, when it comes to making positive dietary changes, people over 65 are often the least likely of all Australians to want to change their diet. Adopting healthy eating habits early is therefore important to ensuring adequate nutrient intakes with age.

Nutrition Issues

Only 10% of adults aged 65 years and over eat the recommended five serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day. This, combined with the fact that many older adults have increased nutrient requirements and decreased food intake means nutrients that are commonly low in the diet of older Australians include fibre, calcium, vitamins A, E, B6, B12, folate, vitamin C, iron, magnesium and zinc.

Older people who primarily stay indoors are also at a high risk of vitamin D deficiency highlighting the importance of regular, but safe, sun exposure.  Body composition also changes with increasing age, and muscle mass can start to decrease, making an older person more susceptible to falls and in turn, to bone fractures. As a result of these changes, the recommended intake for protein increases in adults aged 70 years and over and is around 25% higher than the protein needs of younger adults. This highlights the need to regularly enjoy protein rich foods such as eggs as part of a balanced diet.

Table 1 shows the contribution of one serve* of eggs towards the vitamin and mineral RDIs for older Australians.

Table 1: Contribution to RDIs* of One Serve of Eggs in Older Australians

Nutrient

% RDI  for ages 70+

Protein

16-22%

Long-chain Omega-3s

71-127% adequate intake (AI)

Selenium

59-68%

Vitamin B12

33%

Iodine

29%

Iron

21%

Vitamin A

27-34%

Folate

24%

Vitamin E

24-34%

Vitamin D

5% AI

Zinc

4-6%

RDI – Recommended Dietary Intake

While some older adults may unnecessarily be avoiding eggs because of their perceived fat and cholesterol content, research shows that egg consumption has little association with plasma cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

Due to the variety of nutrients found in eggs, they are an ideal food to include the diets of older adults. They are also economical, easily prepared and soft in texture which makes them appropriate for people of this age group. Eggs are recommended as part of a healthy eating pattern that also includes adequate amounts of wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy foods, lean meat, fish and poultry and unsaturated fats.