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PIA Press Release

Feature: Growing older but getting healthier

by Victor J. Alfonso Jr.

Butuan City (17 May) -- As people grow old, they start to feel body aches and pains. The ageing body undergoes physiological, psychological, and economic changes. Tiring bones and muscles have given way to fat because of the inactive hormones. All these changes contribute to poor nutrition among elderly persons.

The key to health is balanced diet. Like everyone else, older people need a balanced diet to preserve good health and maintain quality of life. The following nutrients will be of great help as one grows older:

Water. Older person often suffer from dehydration. This is because the body's water content decreases as one grows older. Older persons should remember to regularly drink at least an ounce of water for every kilo of body weight. For quick reference, follow the Daily Nutritional Guide Pyramid's recommendation of eight glasses a day.

Protein. Protein is essential as a person ages. Protein is needed to maintain a healthy immune system and to prevent muscle wasting. At the same time, they do not need that much of energy. Foods such as egg whites, chicken without skin, lean meat, and fish, which are low-fat sources of proteins, are very much essential for the older persons.

Carbohydrates and Fiber. Carbohydrates provide energy for the entire body. Carbohydrate-rich foods are bread, pasta, cereals, among others. Older persons usually suffer from constipation. Prevent constipation by taking a diet that is rich in water and fiber.

Fat. The diet of older people should be low in fat but not fat-free. Limit fat intake by using only lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Limit frying as a means of cooking the food.

Iron. Iron helps build and maintain blood supply. It gives the healthy red color to the blood. Iron deficiency is common among older people who do not eat much. Such people should eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, breakfast cereals or red meat.

Zinc. Elderly bodies find it difficult to assimilate zinc. Zinc helps the body use protein and carbohydrates. It also helps hasten wound healing. Take fish, poultry, and meat in order to satisfy the zinc requirements of your body.

Calcium. When people age, they hardly get enough of calcium. The elderly require at least 800 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day according to the recommended energy and nutrient intakes (RENI) for Filipinos. Many of the older persons avoid drinking milk out of fear that it might upset their digestive processes. If a person is averse to milk, one could use non-fat milk powder instead of milk. Calcium can also be obtained from foods such as low-fat cheese, dried fish especially if eaten with bones (dilis, bia, tabios, ayungin) malunggay,saluyot, kintsay, mustasa, kalabasa.

Vitamin B12. Cobalamin or vitamin B12 facilitates maturation of red blood cells. It also protects the "myelin," the fatty material that covers the nerves and enables one to transmit electrical impulses (messages) between nerve cells. Vitamin B12 is usually absorbed by an intrinsic factor in the stomach. Many of the elderly suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency because they suffer from atrophic gastritis, a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the walls of the stomach, growth of bacteria, and lack of the intrinsic factor that is responsible for the absorption of this vitamin into the system.

The elderly need each of these nutrients to keep themselves healthy. The elderly should be as active as possible and maintain a balanced diet. Following the FNRI's Daily Nutrition Guide Pyramid for Older Persons can serve as a reference.

Growing older does not mean one have a reason to neglect the body. An elderly should always eat well and follow good nutrition practices to enjoy a long and healthy life.

For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Gen. Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; Trunkline: 837-2071 local 2296 or 2287; Telephone/Fax No.: 837-3164; e-mail: or; Website: (FNRI-DOST S&T Media Service) [top]

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