Nutrition For Life

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Tailoring the nutrition in food becomes a balancing act when it comes to elderly nutrition. What are some of the requirements? By Alie Coppolella, quality assurance and technical development manager, Azelis UK Food and Health

With life expectancy doubling in the last 200 years in many countries around the world, it is more important than ever to help our ageing population meet the dietary requirements they need to ensure the extra years they have are healthy and active.

There are three main areas affecting general dietary requirements for the elderly, namely energy intake, fibre and protein enrichment, as well as salt reduction. These will be discussed in more detail.

Energy Intake

Energy requirements of healthy people decrease with age due to the change in ratio of muscle (lean body tissue) to fat tissue. Older people have less muscle and more fat, which changes their metabolic rate. Additionally, many people become less active with age.

A reduction of energy intake is essential in maintaining a healthy weight. In turn, this will help to reduce incidents of cardiovascular disease and stroke, hypertension and type II diabetes, and will improve bone and joint health.

The estimated average requirement of energy for elderly adults is set at a much lower level than for younger adults. However, recommendations for fat, carbohydrates and dietary fibre remain the same. This means that they need a diet lower in fat and sugar, whilst maintaining the levels of starchy carbohydrates and fibre.

It is important to look at ingredients that help with both sugar and fat reduction to reduce the overall energy intake, and this can be achieved by using ingredients higher in starchy carbohydrates, fibre and protein.

For example, the use of consumer-friendly sugar reduction tools such as stevia and sucralose, or ingredients like soluble gluco fibre can provide the bulking and fibre content needed when reducing sugar in recipes.

Similarly, using a range of soluble and insoluble fibres with technically advanced whey proteins and pectin can be used to easily achieve substantial fat reduction, while improving the nutritional profile of a product.

For manufacturers concerned with the effects of these ingredients on taste, they need not worry. To replace the lost rich and creamy flavour and mouth-feel, the addition of natural dairy concentrates will ensure the product tastes the same as the higher fat original.

Also, sucrose esters can be used to ensure that product appearance is maintained as a premium, full fat product, as well as aid in the processing of a low fat product.

Fibre And Protein Enrichment

Most elderly people typically do not get enough fibre for breakfast, or at any meal really, but a diet that is high in protein and fibre can have multiple health benefits. For example, being more filling, diets high in protein and fibre increase satiety, and is therefore useful in aiding weight loss. They also provide long-lasting energy, and help to build and repair muscle tissue, which in turn helps to maintain bone and joint health.


A diet meeting the recommended levels of fibre intake has significant benefits to overall health and wellness and it is believed to help reduce the risks of health issues such as cancers, cardiovascular disease and obesity. This is done by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels and helping to control blood sugar levels.

These in turn help reduce the severity of strokes, prevent type II diabetes, aid in the maintenance of a healthy weight, promote weight loss by increasing satiety, and also gives a healthy bowel function and digestive health.

Soluble Fibres

Oat beta glucan, a unique soluble fibre ingredient from oats, can be used to benefit from the positive effects that oats are recognised for, such as reducing blood cholesterol and glycaemic response, improving digestive/intestinal health and promoting satiety, and rebalancing fat and calorie content due to its fat mimicking properties.

With only one kilocalorie per gram, polydextrose is a lowcalorie soluble fibre with a low glycaemic index, comprising a randomly bonded polymer of dextrose. This fibre is well tolerated during digestion, and will not trigger gas production or a laxative effect unlike with sugar alcohols.

Soluble gluco fibre is a well-tolerated fibre with attractive label options. For example, it offers excellent single intake and daily tolerance levels (40g/intake; 65g/day), and helps reduce overall sugars and calories in products while being label friendly. Further, the overall fibre content and beneficial physiological effects make it more attractive to consumers.

Insoluble Fibres

A range of natural, insoluble dietary fibres can be used to fortify products, and these may possess multifunctional properties including anti-caking, cost reduction, improved shelf-life, increased dough yield, calorie and fat reduction.

Examples of these include bamboo, cellulose, wheat, oat or apple fibres. They do not dissolve in water, thereby speeding up the passage of food and waste through the gut.

Protein Enrichment

Protein is an important building block for a healthy heart and bones, and is an important aspect of elderly nutrition. Protein helps to maintain nitrogen balance, offsetting age-related lower energy intake and impaired insulin action. A diet high in protein enhances protein synthesis, and is therefore essential in maintaining muscle mass.

A healthy diet that is high in protein can help with weight loss, or in maintaining a healthy weight, and increases levels of satiety.

Oat Protein

Oat protein is a natural concentrate from oats that can help with enriched foods. It is rich in essential amino acids (including leucine, isoleucine and lysine), highly digestible, and an excellent alternative to dairy, soy or wheat proteins.

Micro-Particulated Whey Protein

Micro-particulated whey protein prevents muscle tissue breakdown, and can also help lower blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. Dairy proteins are digested quickly and aid satiety, and can be used to replace fat in low fat foods.

A rich source of leucine, isoleucine and valine which help to promote muscle recovery, these are perfect in applications where a premium smoothness and creaminess is required. They provide an enhanced mouthfeel to low fat applications and contribute opacity.

Oat Protein

Oat protein is a natural concentrate from oats that can help with enriched foods. It is rich in essential amino acids (including leucine, isoleucine and lysine), highly digestible, and an excellent alternative to dairy, soy or wheat proteins.

Pea Protein

Pea protein provides nutritional benefits including low calorie formulation and allergen, gluten, and lactose-free solutions. The amino acids in pea protein—like lysine, glutamine, arginine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine—support a healthy digestive tract lining, and their binding, water absorption and emulsification properties make pea protein an excellent natural solution.

Soya Protein

Soya protein flours, concentrates and textured products are made from selected soya beans with a high protein content. They are an excellent source of proteins (or essential amino acids), minerals, and vitamins that are significant for the overall metabolism.

Soluble Wheat Protein

Soluble wheat protein, produced from vital wheat gluten, can be used to replace dairy proteins. It can help to lower cholesterol, which is known to be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease. It has a bland flavour and is readily water soluble. Wheat proteins are also low in fat, carbohydrates and calories, cost efficient and readily available.

Protein Masking

Although highly nutritious and cost effective, vegetable protein sources can have an unpleasant taste, depending on the application. Therefore, using technically advanced natural concentrates and masking flavours is beneficial to ensure consumer acceptance.

Natural concentrates can be used for premium, lingering, rich and succulent flavour delivery. These are versatile and cover all dairy and non-dairy fat sources such as butter, cheese, cream, milk, and yoghurt. Natural concentrates can be used to harmonise formulations and round out harsh flavours like pepper, and also mask nutraceutical actives and proteins such as soy and whey.

Masking flavours on the other hand, provide solutions to sensory challenges such as when reducing or replacing unwanted ingredients, or adding actives. These are a unique flavour solution to eliminate vegetable protein off-notes.

Salt Reduction

Following years of data from the Food Standards Agency on the health risks associated with a high salt diet, commonly agreed issues are that high salt diets raise blood pressure and hypertension, both of which are major causes of cardiovascular disease which accounts for 62 percent of strokes and 49 percent of coronary heart disease.

High salt diets also contribute to osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease, kidney stones and obesity.

Many years have been spent in searching for the perfect salt replacement ingredient but it remains elusive. However, there are a range of options that can help, which work synergistically to achieve the desired perception of saltiness in a variety of applications, with a variety of label declaration options.

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
15 percent of solution 20-50 percent 20-50 percent
Lowering salt gradually Salt crystal size and density Taste enhancers
  Solution Synergies Mineral Salt Blends
  Taste receptor manipulation Increased levels of flavours and spices

It is easy to formulate a product to achieve a lower salt level by using a versatile range of options, rather than trying to tackle the issue with a single product. The solution above is just one of the many ways this can be done.