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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Food Pyramid Modernized for Older Adults



We're all getting older, some of us precipitously. Our bodies don't function as well as they did when we were younger and we process and digest food differently as well. That's means that the recommendations for a so-called healthy diet also have to change.

The researchers over at Tufts University who take care of such things have issued a report in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults by Alice H. Lichtenstein, Helen Rasmussen, Winifred W. Yu, Susanna R. Epstein and Robert M. Russell. J. Nutr. 138:5-11, January 2008.

Abstract

In 1999 we proposed a Modified Food Guide Pyramid for adults aged 70+ y. It has been extensively used in a variety of settings and formats to highlight the unique dietary challenges of older adults. We now propose a Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults in a format consistent with the MyPyramid graphic. It is not intended to substitute for MyPyramid, which is a multifunctional Internet-based program allowing for the calculation of individualized food-based dietary guidance and providing supplemental information on food choices and preparation. Pedagogic issues related to computer availability, Web access, and Internet literacy of older adults suggests a graphic version of MyPyramid is needed. Emphasized are whole grains and variety within the grains group; variety and nutrient density, with specific emphasis on different forms particularly suited to older adults' needs (e.g. frozen) in the vegetables and fruits groups; low-fat and non-fat forms of dairy products including reduced lactose alternatives in the milk group; low saturated fat and trans fat choices in the oils group; and low saturated fat and vegetable choices in the meat and beans group. Underlying themes stress nutrient- and fiber-rich foods within each group and food sources of nutrients rather than supplements. Fluid and physical activity icons serve as the foundation of MyPyramid for Older Adults. A flag to maintain an awareness of the potential need to consider supplemental forms of calcium, and vitamins D and B-12 is placed at the top of the pyramid. Discussed are newer concerns about potential overnutrition in the current food landscape available to older adults.


Laurie Barkley at MedScape gives the play by play:
The Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults specifically emphasizes whole grains; variety within the grains group; variety and nutrient density; vegetables and fruits particularly suited to older adults' needs, such as frozen foods; low-fat and nonfat dairy products including reduced lactose alternatives in the milk group; low saturated fat and trans fat choices in the oils group; and low saturated fat and vegetable options in the meat and beans group.

The underlying principles of the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults include focus on nutrient- and fiber-rich foods within each group, recommending food sources of nutrients rather than supplements, and use of fluid and physical activity icons. The base of the pyramid has a row of glasses to remind older adults that it is crucial to remain well hydrated. In the second row, pictures of various physical activities emphasize the need for regular physical activity, which is of vital importance given the high prevalence of physical inactivity in older adults.

And, quoting one of the study's authors:
"The advantages of MyPyramid compared with the original Food Guide Pyramid are that the guidance is delivered in terms of household measures, is accompanied by tips on how to achieve the recommended goal, presents food group serving suggestions in terms of total intake per day, and provides tips on altering standard recipes to limit added sugars, utilizing the information available on food labels and adhering to food safety standards," write Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, from the Jean Mayer United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues. "Despite these benefits, the updated system presents unique challenges for older adults. This group of individuals has less access and familiarity with computers than their younger counterparts and a lower comfort level for deriving computer-based information."

Click here for a larger, more readable version of the pyramid.

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