Seniors aged 65 and over who follow recommendations in Canada's new food guide may not be getting enough of certain key nutrients, warns a new study published by researchers at McGill University.
Your diet may therefore not contain enough folic acid, vitamin D and calcium.
We expect that Health Canada will issue guidelines for the population to ensure that we have the most complete diet possible that meets our needs without having to resort to supplements. This is what the dietary guidelines are about. And then we realize that this is not entirely the case in older people, explains the author of the study, Professor Stéphanie Chevalier.
Vitamin D and calcium play an important role in bone health. And since vitamin D is also involved in muscle health, we quickly understand how important these two nutrients are in seniors' diets.
Folic acid [ou les folates]is, in turn, involved in the production of red blood cells [qui transportent l’oxygène dans le sang] and in the formation of hemoglobin.
There are several positive aspects to the new Canada Food Guide, introduced in 2019, Ms. Chevalier said, but the fact that it applies to the entire population aged two and over worries her a little.
This includes children, adolescents, pregnant women and the elderly, which are populations we have always known to have special nutritional needs, she said. I was wondering: Are we missing something because we avoid making, let's say, more specific recommendations for these populations?
She and her postdoctoral researcher Didier Brassard combed through the actual eating habits of hundreds of seniors to measure their level of adherence to the Canadian Food Guide.
Lack of calcium or vitamin D
They found that this adherence can lead to an increase or decrease in the intake of certain nutrients. It can't change anything at all.
The problem, says Ms. Chevalier, is that it is often difficult for seniors to consume enough nutrients such as calcium or vitamin D.
And adhering to the Canadian Food Guide even more doesn't help them. We were very surprised.
However, the news is not all bad. The study authors found that seniors who adhere to the Canadian Dietary Guide are less likely than others to not consume enough magnesium, vitamin B6 and protein.
However, seniors should keep in mind that they need a little more protein than recommended in the guide and try to consume it with every meal, regardless of whether the protein is of animal or plant origin.
In recent years, Health Canada has published additional resources online, including guidelines for seniors. However, the information is not necessarily easy to find and is often aimed at medical professionals or even facility managers, although many seniors get information online.
Loss of appetite
Seniors don't always have the control over their diet that they would like. Those who live at home often have to put up with the menu on offer. Those living at home and experiencing loneliness or loss of autonomy may have limited ability to get the food they want.
In addition, aging is often accompanied by a loss of appetite.
Since it's calcium and vitamin D, I would recommend dairy products. I'm thinking, among other things, of Greek yogurt: it's a food that I often recommend to older people who have a smaller appetite. A small cup of Greek yogurt contains a lot of calcium and is also a good source of protein.
Folate is found in green vegetables and a vitamin D deficiency can be compensated for with a dietary supplement prescribed by a doctor.
Researchers will now examine how adherence to current guidelines affects health outcomes, such as physical function, mobility and cognition, and how guidelines can be changed to improve these outcomes.
The results of this study were published in the Journal of Nutrition.