The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — commends the federal government’s recent release of the “2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans” and particularly applauds its inclusion of specific advice for older adults.
Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” issued by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.
“Good nutrition is an integral component of successful aging,” said GSA President Donald Ingram, PhD. “The benefits of a healthy diet and regular physical activity may include a more robust immune system, higher energy levels, faster recuperation times, sharper mental acuity, and better management of chronic health problems.”
In Boston this November, GSA’s Annual Scientific Meeting — under the theme of “Lifestyle → Lifespan” — will explore nutrition and aging in greater detail. Numerous sessions are scheduled to focus on the healthy gut, anorexia, obesity, antioxidant supplements, calorie restriction, brain foods, women’s nutrition, and nutrition among long-lived populations.
Moreover, numerous studies reported in GSA’s peer-reviewed scientific journals have tied obesity to poor health outcomes for America’s seniors. A January 2010 special issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences described many of the negative consequences, even showing that the adverse affects of being overweight are not limited to physical function but also extend to neurological function.
“Dietary Guidelines for Americans” makes several age-based recommendations. Individuals aged 50 years and older are encouraged to consume food fortified with vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals or dietary supplements. Additionally, people aged 51 and older are advised to reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.
For women aged 51 and over, the government recommends a daily intake of between 1,600 and 2,200 calories depending on physical activity level, and for men aged 51 and over, a daily intake of between 2,000 and 2,800 calories depending on physical activity level.
Adults aged 65 years and older who are overweight are encouraged not to gain additional weight. Among older adults who are obese, particularly those with cardiovascular disease risk factors, intentional weight loss can be beneficial and result in improved quality of life and reduced risk of chronic diseases and associated disabilities, according to the new report.
In regard to physical activity, the government states that older adults should follow the standard adult guidelines, noting that seniors should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions will allow. Similarly, they are also advised to do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling. Those with chronic conditions should understand if and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.
The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,200+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.