The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said it expects to complete a set of dietary guidelines for the elderly by the end of this year.
Good nutrition is the foundation of life and having a healthy diet is critical to maintaining health and vitality in old age, the HPA said, adding that to raise public awareness, the agency late last month invited specialists in the fields of medicine, nutrition and social welfare to discuss healthy nutrition for the elderly and to provide suggestions.
The elderly must “eat, eat enough and eat right” to be healthy, HPA Director Wang Ying-wei (王英偉) said of the consensus reached by the panel of experts.
A HPA survey last year found that 10 percent of the elderly in Taiwan experience problems chewing their food, and that many develop swallowing or digestive problems as they age, causing some elderly people to experience long-term malnutrition due to an inability to consume food properly on their own.
Many people have the impression that the elderly can eat food that is cut into small pieces or made into a liquid, Wang said, but the food’s appearance and texture are also important factors that affect the appetite.
All of these factors have contributed to the agency developing its set of year-end dietary guidelines, he added.
An HPA survey conducted between 2013 and 2014 showed that 42 percent of the elderly consumed fewer calories than required to meet their daily needs and that they tend to be most deficient in calcium (76.3 percent), vitamin E (73.1 percent), vitamin D (60 percent), zinc (51.5 percent) and magnesium (49.6 percent).
The survey also showed that 81.6 percent of the elderly had insufficient amounts of milk in their daily diets, while 72.9 percent consumed an insufficient amount of fruit.
Some experience malnutrition because of misconceptions about what make up a healthy diet, such as believing that they should drink broth, but not other ingredients, Wang said, adding that he hoped the elderly would learn to consume a balanced diet that contains all the essential nutrients from the six main food groups.
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