Can nutrition help fight illness in older adults?

20th October 2017

Simply put a poor nutritional status invariably leads to poor health leaving patients more susceptible to infection and prolonging their recovery period. Maintaining good nutrition whilst fighting an infection can be a slippery slope as it’s more difficult to eat well when your body is under stress, leaving the body more susceptible to further infection.

Malnutrition in all individuals needs to be closely monitored, but especially in older adults, as they are more likely to be deficient in macronutrients and have a declining immune function. It, therefore, stands to reason that improving an individuals nutrition will lead to them having an improved ability to stay well.

A research study conducted by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has shown that boosting the intake of micronutrients associated with immune function, such as zinc, selenium, carotenoids and vitamins C and E can help to fight infections.

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The study involved 217 participants between the ages of 65 and 85. These individuals were assigned to three different groups; one group ate a diet high in macronutrients, the second took a supplement mimicking the level of macronutrients in group one’s diet and the third group took a placebo.

Each participant was encouraged to record any illnesses, symptoms and their activity levels in a diary. After six months, it was discovered that group one who had enjoyed a micronutrient rich diet had spent the least time unwell. In addition to less time spent at the doctor’s group one also showed significant improvements in social functioning and emotional health on the part of the study that measures their quality of life.

The second group taking the dietary supplement also showed less frequent doctors and hospital visits when compared with the placebo group.

A focus on nutrition has not only been proven as fundamental to a persons health and wellbeing but also in the speed of their recovery, resulting in reduced hospital admission times and NHS cost. To read more about the impact that optimal nutrition can have on NHS costs, click here. 

To find out what dietary changes you can make to ensure you’re eating, or serving, food rich in these essential macronutrients download your free PDF poster below complete with easy ways to increase macronutrient intake!

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