The latest nutrition guidelines announced yesterday by the federal government don't mince words when it comes to the way older adults should be eating: less salt, fat and sugar. More fruits, vegetables and grains.
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In particular, if you're 51 and older, you need to sharply cut your salt consumption to no more than 1,500 mg of salt daily. The same goes for all African Americans, as well as anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, according to the new nutrition recommendations.
Older adults also should make sure they get enough vitamin B12 through fortified cereals or vitamin supplements. Vitamin B12 deficiency — which can cause weakness, confusion, depression and fatigue — occurs more often in adults over 65, as well as in people who chronically take stomach acid-reducers like Prilosec and Zantac, which can affect the body's absorption of the vitamin. Foods high in B12 include fish, shellfish, meat (especially liver), dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.
Although this was lauded by at least one medical expert, the American Heart Association issued a statement calling the advice "weak" and saying it was no different from the government's 2005 guidelines. The heart association recommends less than 1,500 mg of salt a day for all Americans.
However, Jane E. Henney, M.D., of the University of Cincinnati and head of a 2010 Institute of Medicine report on U.S. sodium consumption believes anything that lowers Americans' salt consumption "will be helpful in reducing the health consequences, such as the development of hypertension, that is linked to excess sodium intake."
The guidelines were prepared by a committee of nutrition experts who reviewed scientific literature on diet, exercise and nutrition, as well as input from public comments and testimony at a series of public meetings.
Candy Sagon writes about food and nutrition for the Bulletin.