Mr Tunde Ajobo, Chief Dietician of the Department of Dietetics, University College Hospital (UCH) on Sunday, said that about eighty five per cent of the aged had nutrition-related medical problems.
Ajobo made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan, Oyo State.
He defined nutritional deficiency as inadequate supply of essential nutrients in the diet resulting in malnutrition or disease prevalent among the aged.
“Nutritional deficiency is an inadequate supply of essential nutrients (vitamins and minerals) in the diet, resulting in malnutrition or disease.
“It could also be lack of one or more of the essential nutrients because of primary or dietary inadequacy or as a result of secondary or conditioned inadequacy,” he said.
Ajobo said the disease prevalent in this age group included; osteoporosis, obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.
“About 85 per cent of the aged have nutrition-related problems such as osteoporosis, obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.
“From the Public Health standpoint, people over 65 years of age represent 14 per cent of the U.S. population.
“It is estimated that by year 2040, about 22 per cent will have reached 65 years of age,” he said.
Ajobo said some of the nutritional problems of elderly people were their inability to form and absorb Vitamin D, “which affects absorption of calcium in old age’’.
“The Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) for Vitamin D is 10 microgram per day for both men and women over the age of 65 years.
“However, the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey of old people showed that majority of those over 65 years failed to achieve the recommended intake source of Vitamin D,’’ he said.
The medial practitioner said that primary nutritional deficiency in adults included, poor food habit, poverty, ignorance, lack of food, and excess consumption of highly-refined foods.
He said that other types of deficiency included problems with ingestion, absorption, utilisation, nutrient requirement destruction and nutrient excretion.
The dietician said secondary conditioned deficiency is a progressive, continuous process that if not corrected on time may lead to depletion of nutrient reserve.
Ajobo said that biochemical changes or lesions occured in selected tissue or the body at large, and these eventually resulted in functional changes like loss of appetite, easy fatigue and gastro-intestinal disturbances.
“As nutritional deficiency continues, anatomical lesions develop and gross clinical signs and symptoms like glossitis, cheilosis dermatitis begin to manifest,” he said.
Ajobo listed the causes of nutritional problems in the age: limited access to food, due to financial constraint, depression and physical disabilities
According to him, other causes included loss of appetite, forgetfulness, which can lead to decrease in food intake.
“Other secondary causes are medical conditions which can increase nutritional need or decrease the body ability to absorb nutrients.
“Weakened immune system, muscle wasting, delayed wound healing are also secondary causes, ‘’he said.
The dietician said management of these deficiencies involved adequate provision and ingestion of needed foods and vitamins the body was deficient in.
“The diet for the elderly should be followed strictly and good sources of protein like fish, poultry, eggs and nuts should be taken.
“Many protein foods also provide vitamin and minerals that are important for older people as well as good intake of water to avoid dehydration.
“The process of aging brings about physiological, psychological and immunological changes which influences the nutritional status.
“Moreover, there is no way to stop aging but a healthful diet and lifestyle are indeed capable of slowing it onset.
“It prevents its associate degenerative diseases such as arteriosclerosis, rheumatism, cataracts, cancer, and others, which tend to increase in later years,’’ he said.(NAN)