Don’t Get Caught Off Guard by Malnutrition
Would you recognize malnutrition in a parent or grandparent? Malnutrition occurs when the body is not getting enough nutrients. It even can be caused by the lack of a single vitamin in your diet.1
Possible causes of malnutrition in older people are waning senses of taste and smell, difficulty chewing,2 and depression.3 Sadly, malnutrition can lead to hip fractures4 and may contribute to dementia5 and periodontal (gum) disease.6 Eating well, however, can help an older adult manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease,7 and keep bones and muscles strong.8
Look for signs of malnutrition. The symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue,1 muscle cramps,9 and bleeding gums.10
At any age, it’s best to get vitamins and minerals from food, not pills.11 But the diets of some older people don’t contain enough vitamin B12,12 calcium,13 and vitamin D.14 In these cases, supplements might be a wise choice.12, 13, 14, 15 To make sure you’re getting enough nutrients, talk with your doctor.6
1 “Malnutrition.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, May 18, 2007. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/ article/000404.htm Accessed 2010.
2 “Diet and Nutrition.” National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, April 2005. www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topic s/Diet_and_Nutrition.cfm. Accessed 2010.
3 “Young at Heart: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Across Your Lifespan.” Weight-Control Information Network, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, National Institutes of Health, updated January 2007. www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications /young_heart.htm Accessed 2010.
4 “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.” Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, September 23, 2005. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-QuickFacts/. Accessed 2010.
5 “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12.” Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, April 26, 2006. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/. Accessed 2010.
6 “Diet and Oral Health.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/2984.aspx. Accessed 2010.
7 “Eating Well as You Get Older.” National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, May 7, 2008. http://www.nia. nih.gov/NewsAndEvents/PressReleases/PR20080507eatingwell.htm. Accessed 2010.
8 “Nutrition for Everyone: Calcium and Bone Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 2008. www.cdc.gov/nutrition/eve ryone/basics/vitamins/calcium.html Accessed 2010.
9 “Undiagnosed Vitamin D Deficiency in the Hospitalized Patient.” D. Lyman. American Family Physician. January 15, 2005, vol. 71, no. 2, p. 245. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0115/p299.html Accessed 2010.
10 “Medical Encyclopedia: Bleeding Gums.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, March 18, 2008. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/ article/003062.htm Accessed 2010.
11 “Medical Encyclopedia: Vitamins.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, March 12, 2008. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/vitamins.htmlwww.fda.gov/ForConsumers/Consu merUpdates/ucm118079.htm Accessed 2010.
12 “Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, November 19, 2007. www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm118079.htm Accessed 2010.
13 “Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, National Institutes of Health, August 2008. www.niams.nih.go v/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Nutrition/default.asp. Accessed 2010.
14 “Recent Developments in Vitamin D Deficiency and Muscle Weakness Among Elderly People.” G. Venning. BMJ. March 5, 2005, vol. 330, p. 525. www.bmj.com/content/330/7490/524.full Accesed 2010.
15 “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D.” Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, September 8, 2008. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind/ Accessed 2010.