The Food To Healthy Ageing

The Food To Healthy Ageing zeevveez, Jerusalem, Israel
With the world facing a growing ageing population, healthy ageing has become a topic of concern for many. Functional food is set to play a crucial role in helping people achieve that. By Koen Van Praet, MD, Beneo Asia-Pacific

According to the United Nation’s World Population Ageing 2009 report, the number of older persons (over 60 years of age) is expected to exceed the number of children (under 15 years of age) for the first time in 2045.

This means that by 2050, it is anticipated that the world's population aged 60 years and over will have passed the one billion mark, representing 15 percent of the total population. At that time, Asia Pacific will be home to 62 per cent of the world's elderly population.

The high dependence ratio fuels worries at the governmental level that there may not be a large enough young working population to support the growing needs—specifically for healthcare and home support—of the elderly. Within an elderly population the effects of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and obesity, will become even more tangible.

The right nutrition is one aspect to fight the burden of NCDs and increase and maintain well-being, and it is never too early to start thinking about eating right, as it helps minimise or even prevent the effects of NCDs in old age.

Maintaining the right diet plays a big role in delaying the body’s ageing process. A critical element of healthy ageing is eating nutritionally balanced food that helps people meet the recommended intake levels.

Strong Bones

mk94577, Calfornia, US
mk94577, Calfornia, US
Two critical elements for maintaining agility and movement as people age are bone integrity and muscle integrity. Functional ingredients can contribute to agility by improving calcium absorption. In normal diets, only one third of calcium is absorbed by the body.

Scientific studies have shown that the use of a specific form of oligofructose-enriched inulin leads to increased calcium absorption. One example is a study conducted by Baylor College of Medicine study. It was designed to test whether oligofructose-enriched inulin could increase calcium retention within bones of adolescents.

Over a period of one year, calcium retention and accretion in bones increased by as much as 15 percent in the group supplemented with oligofructose-enriched inulin compared to a control group. This increase in bio-available calcium was demonstrated to reach the bones and increase bone mineral density, opening up further the possibility of osteoporosis prevention.

Enhanced Cognition

In addition to agility, maintaining mental alertness and sufficient energy is important as well. In this context, glucose plays a pivotal role as it is the essential energy source for body and mind.

The next generation carbohydrate, isomaltulose, is a low glycaemic carbohydrate which provides full carbohydrate energy in the form of glucose over a longer period of time. Being low glycaemic, it avoids significant peaks and troughs as would be found with the blood glucose response of for example sugar.

Choosing low glycaemic food is a good option for those looking to maintain an active lifestyle during young and old age. As an essential source for mental performance, the balanced supply of glucose also keeps the mind alert.

GLUCOSE PLAYS A PIVOTAL ROLE AS IT IS THE ESSENTIAL ENERGY SOURCE FOR BODY AND MIND.

Healthy Digestion

The large intestine is an organ that was underestimated for a long time as it was thought to be no more than the place where faeces are made. It was assumed then that bowel movements and constipation are the key factors to be considered.

However, today we know that it also plays an important role in our hunger and satiety regulation and that it is a centre of inner protection activities. It is the home of the gut microbiota that strongly influences the human organism. It thus contributes significantly to healthy ageing.

Inulin-type fructans from chicory promote selectively the growth of naturally occurring bifidobacteria in babies, so that the composition of the gut microflora of a bottle fed baby becomes similar to that of a breast fed baby.

In the elderly, researchers have identified specific changes in the balance of digestive micro-organisms that are thought to be partly responsible for some of the increased intestinal problems that are all too common later in life. As people get older, the levels of beneficial bacteria in the intestine tend to decline, putting the elderly at greater risk of gastrointestinal disease and discomfort.


Bianca Moraes, Brasilia, Brazil
Bianca Moraes, Brasilia, Brazil

Prebiotic Fibres

Prebiotic fibres allow a selective increase of the healthy microflora. They are substrates for the microflora and thus multiply and grow bifidus bacteria—the good bacteria in the large intestine. They are helping to build a strong digestive system.

Dietary fibres pass through the stomach and the intestine intact, leaving one feeling fuller for longer. They also add bulk to stool and or decrease transit time, facilitating large bowel movements. This is important in reducing constipation.

Further health benefits can be reflected in lower blood cholesterol, lowering the risk of coronary heart diseases. The slower speed of digestion also improves the control of blood glucose levels for more regulated energy levels.

To reach the recommended level of dietary fibre intake, a good combination of grains, vegetables and fruits, along with fibre-enriched food is needed. Foods such as cereals and snack bars fortified with fibre, offer quick and easy options to reach the daily required intake.

According to Professor Jeyakumar Henry, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre of A*STAR, which is located within the National University of Singapore, Singapore and the ASEAN need to spend more time and resources to look at how to develop food options which are palatable and appealing, while meeting their nutritional needs.

He added that the type of food we eat has a direct impact on our health and well-being, and that harnessing the nutritional benefits of foods and meeting the recommended intake levels can help fight the occurrence of NCDs.

“Food ingredients will play an increasingly major role. It will not be very long before we see food ingredients that can help to lower blood pressure, and lower triglyceride, cholesterol and glucose levels,” he said.

Top 5 Healthy Ageing Claims

Innova Market Insights has identified the top five health claims for functional foods and drinks marketed to older consumers. Health optimisation has become an increasing focus for an ageing population, driven by rising consumer understanding of the role of a healthy diet in extending the active years. This is being reflected in promotion of the idea of healthy ageing or ageing well.


Tamaki Sono, Shiga, Japan
Tamaki Sono, Shiga, Japan

“The most popular healthy-ageing-related claims for food and drink products concern digestive/gut health, energy/alertness, heart health and immune health,” says Robin Wyers, chief editor of the company. “These have general appeal among the wider population. But there are other, more specific, opportunities in age-related concerns that are currently featured much less often in product claims, including brain/cognitive health, bone health, skin health, joint health and eye health.”

Tracked product launches using eye health claims doubled in the last five-year period. However, they still account for just under three percent of launches featuring an active health claim of any kind, so this sector shows big potential for future growth.

Omega 3 fatty acids also feature strongly for brain or cognitive health. This area of interest is likely to continue to expand following EFSA approval of a claim relating to DHA and maintenance of normal brain function. While about 60 percent of European launches using this claim are currently for baby foods, there is a clear opportunity for a move into new categories, specifically healthy ageing.

A range of other ingredients claimed to be beneficial in the area of cognitive health include B vitamins, CoQ10, ginkgo biloba, polyphenols, acetyl L-carnitine and green tea, but there are few specific references to ageing to date, with labelling generally simply highlighting their use and relying on consumer awareness of the benefits.

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  • Last modified on Saturday, 23 November 2013 16:32
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Asia Pacific Food Industry (APFI) is Asia’s leading trade magazine for the food and beverage industry. Established in 1985, APFI is the first BPA-audited magazine and the publication of choice for professionals throughout the industry with its editorial coverage on the latest research, innovative technologies, health and nutrition trends, and market reports.

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