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Friday, August 31, 2007

Foods must bridge the gap in healthy aging, nutrition experts say

While dietary supplement marketers have long targetted baby boomers, this generation is still in need of more functional foods geared towards their nutritional and emotional requirements, according to speakers at IFT Expo.

Development of such products could boost the bottom line of manufacturers, but also increase the longevity of what has been the most educated and affluent generation to date. Antioxidants, calcium, vitamin D and zinc for instance, can slow the rate of age-related disease and increase the number of healthy years in a person's life, the speakers said in a symposium on healthy aging.

"We need to take that information and apply it,", a nutrition scientist at Tufts University, told IFT attendees. "We have to be willing to create new food products that older people can consume on a regular basis."

While the research shows that antioxidants, zinc and copper can delay AMD (age-related macular degeneration), the nutrition scientist also estimates that - in the right doses - this type of fortification or supplementation could prevent 300,000 cases of blindness in a five-year period.

However, there are numerous factors that set the stage for an aging person's nutritional health, according to the speakers.

These include socio-economic influences - such as a person's economic status, their psychological health, or the impact of changes in their environment as they age - and also physiological factors - such as altered nutrient metabolism, a reduced ability to absorb nutrients, or the interaction of nutrients with pharmaceutical drugs.

Aging boomers are generally more aware of the relationship between food and beverage and how they feel physically - according to a researcher with the Hartman Group in Washington state - and they want feelings of vitality rather than foods that make them feel sluggish. They also want to feel independent and be in charge of their own health.

The speakers also highlighted the potential positive impact on healthcare systems if disease were delayed significantly in the aging process.

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