By: Peter Van Dael, Senior Vice President Nutrition Science & Advocacy, DSM Nutritional Products
With an aging global population, it is of vital importance that steps are taken to ensure that the later years of life can be lived well. Hidden hunger, characterized by an inadequate or insufficient dietary intake of key micronutrients, is increasingly prevalent in older adults and can enhance the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and age-related chronic conditions, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD). These concerns can have a major impact on quality of life, and also incur significant healthcare costs for societies and economies around the globe.
As such, introducing public health strategies is essential to help address hidden hunger in the elderly. This topic, including ways in which the financial burden of an aging population can be eased across the globe, was discussed at this year’s conference in a presentation by Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, Professor for Healthy Aging at the University Medical Center Groningen, on ‘Hidden Hunger in the elderly and socioeconomic burden’.
A growing body of scientific evidence also indicates that implementing nutritional intervention strategies as part of a long-term, preventative approach could help to address hidden hunger in this population. On behalf of DSM, I introduced the topic of healthy aging and the importance of nutrition in managing quality of life and senior healthcare costs. Prof. Helene McNulty, an expert in healthy aging from the University of Ulster, presented the initial results from the BrainHOP trial and approaches to managing cognitive function through nutritional intervention in the aging population.
Attendees also heard Prof. Michael Fenech from the University of South Australia discussing the role of DNA damage during inflammation, which in itself may accelerate aging, and how nutrition may be able to combat this issue. In addition to increasing the risk of NCDs and hidden hunger, evidence suggests that poor nutrition may also contribute to a greater risk of DNA damage, which can promote accelerated aging. In his presentation, Prof. Fenech explored how damage to telomeres – the ‘caps’ at the end of each strand of DNA that protect it during DNA replication – leads to telomere shortening, which occurs naturally as we age but can also be exacerbated by smoking, obesity and a poor diet. This shortening can cause cells to stop functioning properly and become senescent, meaning that they become inactive or die. As a result, cells are unable to divide and begin to age, affecting the body’s ability to regenerate and respond to injury or stress.
Inflammationv is one of the most recognizable signs of a senescent cell, and is triggered as part of the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) which occurs following damage to DNA. Scientific evidence suggests that controlling inflammation, by managing the SASP, may help to slow cellular aging and reduce the risk of age-related diseases. Micronutrients, such as zinc, have been found to contribute to genomic stability and reduce DNA damage in cells, indicating that nutrition may play an important role in reducing inflammation and slowing the pace of cellular aging.,
To find out more about the evidence, role and mechanism of micronutrients in healthy aging, download our whitepaper, The future of senior healthcare: nutritional solutions for healthy aging.
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