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Nutrition in the Older Person (part 1)

Posted by Eamonn Brady on


Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

Nutrients are essential for growth and good health - they promote energy, help form body structures and are involved in regulating body functions. Protein, carbohydrate and fat are classified as macronutrients and primarily provide energy; protein also provides amino acids which are the body’s building blocks. Minerals and vitamins are classified as micronutrients and are important in the body's structures and functions. Macronutrient malnutrition is referred to as protein-energy malnutrition and associated with reduction in body mass index (BMI <20 kg/m2). Micronutrient deficiencies are more difficult to detect as they can occur in the presence of a normal body mass index (e.g. vitamin D deficiency).


As people grow older, bones and muscles change, resulting in decreased lean body tissue and bone density. This reduces basal metabolic rate therefore energy requirements fall and appetite may lessen. Physical activity helps to lessen the reduction in lean body mass. Physical activity improves balance and reduces falls by keeping muscle strength. Body water content also declines with age and can impair temperature regulation and increase susceptibility to dehydration.

More on Nutrients

The older body finds it more difficult to absorb vitamins and minerals through food intake, especially vitamin D. Essential nutrients include:

Vitamin B complex
Foods- Whole-grain cereals, bread, red meat, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, sweet corn, brown rice, berries, and yeast.

Role- B vitamins help energy release and are important for the central nervous system. Lack of B vitamins may reduce mental alertness.

Foods- Liver, red meats, oily fish, nuts eggs, pulses, and breakfast cereals.

Role- Iron is important for oxygen delivery in the body. Low iron levels lowers energy levels          

Foods- Chicken, meat and fish.

Role- major component of over three hundred enzymes and plays a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism, protein production, wound healing, the immune system, digestion, sugar level control, and the senses of taste and smell

Foods- Milk, cheese, yoghurt, margarine and oily fish.

Role- maintains strong bones


Vitamin C
Foods- Fruits and vegetables like oranges, melons, blackcurrants, grapes, tomatoes, red and green peppers and Brussels sprouts.

Role- Vitamin C boosts the immune system. It is involved in producing protein. Vitamin C is a free radical which prevents against cancer and helps absorption of iron.

To be continued…next week


If you have any questions, email or call Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse Street on 044 9334591.

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