Nutrition, Behavior, and Disease

Biological Changes during Aging and Nutritional Consequences

S0URCE JUDITH E. BROWN, NUTRITION NOW, 7TH EDITION, 2013

The combined effects of poor diets, other risky behaviors, and biological aging increase the rates of serious diseases during adulthood. How soon a disease develops largely depends on the intensity of exposure to behavioral risks that contribute to disease development.  These are often referred to as epigenetics (when the DNA is not altered, but environmental factors cause genes to be turned either on or off.) 

What Are Some Nutritional Consequences?

 Lowered stomach acidity may result in decreased absorption of vitamin B12? The consequences of getting less sun exposure may result in less production of vitamin D in the skin.

A person’s need for calories generally declines with age as physical activity, muscle mass, and basal metabolic rate decrease. However, when one chooses to continue their physical activity into their older years can maintain their muscle mass, experience less muscle, and bone pain, and gain less body fat than people who are inactive. 

For the most part, the development of chronic disease in middle-age and older adults can be viewed as a chain that represents the accumulation over time of problems that impair cell functions. Each link that is added to the chain, or each additional insult to cellular function, increases the risk that a chronic disease will develop. The presence of a disease indicates that the chain has gotten too long – that the accumulation of problems is sufficient to interfere with the normal functions of cells and tissues.

Normal cell functions and health promotion are facilitated by healthful dietary lifestyles and other behaviors. For example:

Correcting obesity and stabilizing weight during the adult years tends to lengthen life expectancy.

Dietary intakes that correspond to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (MyPlate) or following a healthily diet pattern like the Mediterranean Diet is related to a longer life expectancy.

Maintaining adequate calcium, vitamin D, and protein intake and engaging in regular physical activity during the adult years may prevent or postpone the development of osteoporosis and help maintain muscle mass and strength.

Above average intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains may delay the development or help prevent a number of types of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and cataracts. 

The health status of adults is not necessarily ‘FIXED” by age.; it can change for the better or the worst, or not much at all. It’s up to you.

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