Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 May 2010
Hippocrates said, “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” Scientific research continues to confirm the wisdom of Hippocrates, as it has significantly expanded our knowledge of the “right” nutrition for the older adult. Indirect evidence is accumulating that indicates optimal nutrition contributes to the prevention of diseases associated with “aging” such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Increased intake of certain nutrients can reduce the risks of falls and fractures among older adults and thus retard the development of frailty. The interaction among nutrient status, deficiency states, and disease suggests new opportunities for primary and secondary preventive care for older adults. This chapter presents an updated review of what constitutes optimal nutrition for the older adult, a practical and evidence-based approach to assessment of nutrition, and discusses available nutritional therapies to optimize the experience of aging and to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with malnutrition in the older adult.
NUTRITION AND OPTIMAL AGING
Aging might be seen as the process by which the human organism continues its maturation and development by adapting and compensating to changes in its internal and external environment over time. It is characterized by progressive reduction of reserve capacity in most organ systems and results in progressively increasing morbidity and eventual mortality.