Calcium is an essential mineral for humans: it plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of bones and teeth, and it is particularly vital for dependent seniors. As we age, our bodies undergo changes, and the need for adequate calcium intake becomes paramount to maintaining a good quality of life and reducing the risk of bone problems such as osteoporosis.
Bones become weaker with age
Osteoporosis is a common medical condition among dependent seniors, characterized by a decrease in bone density and bone quality, making bones fragile and more likely to fracture. Bones become porous and light, which can lead to fractures, especially in the hips, spine and wrist. By the age of 80, more than 70% of women suffer from this disease. This explains the fact that falls are the leading cause of accidental death among seniors.
Added to the disease is a recurring problem among the elderly, partly responsible for these weakened bones: undernutrition. Among dependent seniors, it is a serious and common problem, characterized by an insufficient nutritional intake in relation to the body’s needs.
Older adults are particularly vulnerable to undernutrition due to various factors such as decreased appetite, chewing and swallowing disorders, health problems, metabolic and hormonal changes related to aging, limitations in mobility, digestive disorders, drug interactions, and sometimes, social isolation. As a result, older people ingest much less calcium than the recommended amount: 1200 mg/day.
More calcium in the diet
For the Dr Sandra Iulianoresearcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia, calcium is therefore the solution to prevent and avoid serious falls in the elderly. “Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium and protein; but not only. They provide many other nutrients and it is probably all of these nutrients and their interactions within the milk matrix which are responsible for the protective effects.explains Sandra Iuliano, who presented her research at the last international clinical nutrition congress last September in Lyon.
For this, Dr. Iuliano set up a large-scale test. In total, more than 7,000 dependent elderly people, on average aged 86, took part in the test. Their vitamin D intake was initially satisfactory, unlike that of calcium. The participants were divided into two groups: the “intervention” group and the “control” group. Seniors in the “intervention” group received 250 ml of milk + 20 g of cheese or 100 g of complementary yogurt, so as to go from 2 servings of dairy products per day to an average of 3.5 daily servings. Concerning the “control” group, it did not undergo any dietary changes: the consumption of dairy products containing calcium remained at approximately 2 servings per day.
After several months of testing, the results are surprising. Compared to the “control” group, in the “intervention” group there was a reduction in the risk of fracture of 33%, a reduction in the specific risk of hip fracture of 46% as well as a reduction in the risk of falls by 11%. .
It is from the 5th month of dietary changes that we notice a significant change in the risk of hip fracture. The reduction in the risk of falling becomes significant after only 3 months of interventions. The authors specify that no change in mortality was observed.
The figures speak for themselves, it is therefore urgent to change the diet of seniors in order to preserve their health. Enough to interest those involved in the care of dependent seniors, whether in nursing homes, geriatric hospital services, home help specialists or any other referent in gerontology.
To ensure complete coverage of the nutritional needs of an elderly person, it would be necessary:
- 3 meals and 1 snack
- Appetizing meals
- A suitable texture
- Tastes must be respected
Concerning intakes, an elderly person should consume, per day, 1g/kg of protein, 1200mg of calcium and 15 micro g of vitamin D.
Calcium coverage of 1200 mg per day must be achieved throughout the day. For example, a latte in the morning, a piece of cheese at lunchtime, 1 rice pudding at snack time and finally a yogurt for dinner.
Meals must be adapted according to the person and their needs!
Water can also be rich in calcium and help meet the body’s needs! Water is said to be rich if it contains more than 120 mg of calcium per liter.