New U-M Study Examines The Dietary Habits Of America's Elderly
ANN ARBOR---America's elderly consume at least the recommended dietary allowances of iron, zinc and magnesium, but the use of nutritional supplements and drugs commonly used by the elderly can offset the balance of these important nutrients, a new University of Michigan School of Public Health study shows.
The study by Srimathi Kannan, a visiting assistant professor of environmental and industrial health, examined the intake of iron, zinc, copper and magnesium of 2,170 Americans aged 65-90. Kannan and colleagues examined the micronutrient (also known as trace minerals) intake of senior citizens enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (1994-96).
"No diet stands alone," Kannan said. "The elderly should consume a varied and diverse diet and consume nutritional supplements when necessary. Micronutrients are just as important as other nutrients. Being conscious of the need to maintain a healthy balance of iron, zinc, copper and magnesium is especially important for seniors who must contend with other health factors."
Kannan will present her findings on April 18 at "Experimental Biology '99," the annual conference of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Washington, D.C. Her presentation is titled, "Trace Mineral Intakes in the U.S. Elderly: Association with Diet Quality Indices."
Although recommended in very small quantities, micronutrients are essential for good health. Iron, for example, prevents anemia, helps correct memory deficits and is believed to play a role in boosting the immune system. Zinc is believed to enhance immunity and reduce the risk of respiratory infections that can lead to colds. It can also help restore impaired senses, such as the ability to taste and smell.