Old people - should they be eating generously, frugally or what?

  • A.R.P. Walker Human Biochemistry Research Unit, Department of Tropical Diseases, University of the Witwatersrand, and the South African Institute for Medical Research
  • B.F. Walker Human Biochemistry Research Unit, Department of Tropical Diseases, University of the Witwatersrand, and the South African Institute for Medical Research


The ageing of populations, associated with diminishing family size and increasing longevity, is evoking far-reaching effects on health and other services. especially in Western countries. Influencing factors in ageing include not only diet but factors such as physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. There is evidence that a large proportion of morbidity in ageing is due to life-style factors. As far as diet is concerned. the question, should old people be encouraged to eat more. eat frugally, or what, largely depends on the population concerned. In prosperous countries, old people largely have enough to eat. It has been urged that their nutritional status could be improved, not so much by specific supplementation but rather by an increase in vegetable and fruit intake, with a concurrent decrease in the amount of fat consumed. The same recommendation would apply to non-Westernized elderly populations. However an adequate consumption of vegetables and fruit is often limited by cost. Databases on the minimum ranges of nutrient requirements that are consistent with good health in older populations in South Africa are required.


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