European research shows how diet can improve health in the elderly

November 30, 2004

Brussels, 29 November 2004

Adapting diets to reduce the occurrence of Alzheimer’s or osteoporosis and more generally to improve health among the elderly are some of the possibilities revealed by EU research on nutrition and health. Specialists on the impact of nutrition on ageing are meeting today in Brussels to assess the latest developments, envisage how their findings could be used by health authorities, the medical profession and the food and catering industry, and map out future avenues for research.

“Research on nutrition for the elderly is revealing new possibilities for the prevention of disease and better health for improved quality of life,” says Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik. “The elderly form a growing proportion of our population. It is part of our policy on active ageing to ensure people live longer in good health. The research being presented today will make a significant contribution in this area.”

The European Commission is organising a workshop on "Research on Nutrition and Ageing" in Brussels on 29-30 November. Spanning two days, it comprises presentations of a dozen major European research projects funded by the EU through the Fifth and Sixth Framework programmes. The aim of the seminar is to assess progress made in the Fifth Framework programme and the perspectives of newly-launched projects in the Sixth Framework programme, to draw lessons for health care and identify priorities for future research

The proportion of elderly people in Europe is currently around 20% and this is predicted to increase to 25% by 2020 (World Health Organisation, WHO 2002). The most dramatic demographic changes are in the oldest age group (80 years and over). In Europe, it is estimated that the number of people over 80 years will grow from 21.4 million in 2000 to 35 million in 2025. A number of factors, including nutrition, have contributed to this increase in life expectancy.

Research into geriatric medicine is presently dominated by attempts to treat diseases that are quite common in the elderly population, but there is also the need to investigate genetic and environmental factors that allow people to remain healthy and active into their eighties and beyond. As a target group for specialised foods, the elderly have received little attention compared to other population groups. Foods designed to satisfy their nutritional needs should be nutrient-dense familiar foods, available in convenient, easy-to-open packaging and reasonably priced.

For more information on the following three projects, see MEMO/04/7

  • LIPIDIET examines how specific dietary lipids could prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • OPTIFORD investigates whether a better supply of dietary vitamin D would reduce osteoporosis
  • CROWNALIFE assesses the possibilities for functional foods to fulfil the specific needs of the elderly.
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Item source: IP/04/1413 Date: 29/11/2004

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