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March 17, 2014

How Your Body Affects Your Diet As You Age

It’s no surprise healthful eating plays a key role in aging well. That’s why you fill your plate with a variety of nutritious foods, limiting the amount of fat, salt, and sugar. But did you know your nutritional needs are different now than they were just 10 years ago? Or that how your body is changing impacts how you’re experiencing your food?

Our bodies need less of certain nutrients and more of others as we age. A nine-month-old child, for example, needs 27 milligrams of calcium per pound of body weight, whereas a typical adult woman needs just 6.7 milligrams per pound of body weight. Understanding what changes are happening to your body is the first step to maintaining your healthy eating regime as you age.

Here, we discuss a few bodily changes that happen with age that can affect your diet:

Desensitization of Taste Buds

One of the joys of growing older is refining your palate. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, we are born with more than 10,000 taste buds in our mouths, with most of them on the surface of our tongue. As we age, we have fewer and fewer taste buds, and those we have become less sensitive as the nerves that send taste signals to our brain wear out over time.

As a result, many adults over 50 experience a decline in the sense of taste. Older adults tend to lose sensitivity to salty and bitter tastes first, so you may be inclined to salt your food more heavily than before. On the other hand, older adults tend to retain the ability to distinguish sweet tastes the longest, leading some to overindulge in sugary foods and snacks.

Slowed Metabolism

Every year over 40, our metabolism slows. If you continue to consume the same number of calories as you did when you were younger, you will likely gain weight. This is especially true for those who are less physically active. The number of calories you need to consume begins to decline with age, so every calorie you take in should be packed with nutrition.

The number of calories you need each day depends on your age, gender, and activity level. The chart below lists average calorie levels for adults 51 years and over according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sedentary (not active) 1,600 2,000
Moderately active 1,800 2,200 to 2,400
Active 2,000 to 2,200 2,400 to 2,800


Decline in Appetite

When you were younger, you would have loved to drop a few pounds without much effort. Now, however, unexpected weight loss may be a side effect of a lack of appetite. Loss of appetite can be a result of weakened senses described above. Loss of appetite is also a common side effect of certain prescription medications and health problems. If you have lost weight, especially without trying, speak with your doctor immediately to pinpoint the likely culprit.

A decline in thirst, which can lead to dehydration, is also common in older adults. We will be discussing how you can ensure you’re drinking enough water in an upcoming blog. Subscribe to the Kendal Northern Ohio blog today so you don’t miss it!



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