Older Adults Can Win by Not Losing Weight
With much of America concerned about losing weight and celebrating every pound dropped, it’s easy to forget that in older adults weight loss may happen unintentionally and that’s not something cheer about. As eating patterns, habits, tastes, and preferences change, it’s important for older adults to consume enough nourishing foods to maintain a healthy weight, strong bones and muscles, and overall good health.
In older adults, losing weight can mean “losing health”
Research has shown that unintentional weight loss and low weight in older adults can lead to poor health outcomes, including frailty and increased risk of infection and disease. Maintaining a healthy weight can help older adults remain independent longer and can decrease the length and number of hospitalizations if illness does occur[i].
There are many things that can contribute to poor calorie intake in older adults, from medication to isolation to an underlying medical condition[ii]. Consult with your doctor and/or a registered dietician to address any concerns that may be contributing to unintentional weight loss.
To maintain or increase weight in a healthy way, additional calories eaten should be high in nutrition, especially protein. As the major building block in bones, muscles, hormones, and enzymes, protein plays a key role in preserving and restoring health. Adequate amounts of high quality protein foods eaten throughout the day—at every meal—have been shown to be especially important helping in older adults maintain muscle mass, which in turn keeps bones strong and helps prevent fractures and frailty[iii].
- Highest quality protein comes from meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Carefully combining plant products such as nuts, grains and beans is another way to get protein.
- Quick and easy meals with plenty of protein can begin with:
- 2 eggs cooked with 2 slices of cheese
- A medium chicken breast (about 4 oz.)
- 1 cup of cottage cheese
- A 6 oz. can of tuna
- Snacks with quality calories and additional protein are:
- Cheese sticks, cubes, or slices
- Nuts and nut butters of any kind
- Milkshakes, puddings and custards made with added protein powder, dry milk powder, and/or cream
[i] Martin CT, Kayser-Jones J, Stotts NA, Porter C, Froelicher ES. Risk for low weight in community-dwelling, older adults. Clin Nurse Spec. 2007 Jul-Aug;21(4):203-11.
[ii] Bernstein M, Luggen, AS. Nutrition for the Older Adult. Sudbury, Mass: Jones & Bartlett, 2010.
[iii] Layman DK.. Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009 Mar 13;6:12