Why aren't old people fat?

Seniors are too fat at first, then too thin

Many senior citizens are cared for incorrectly by their relatives when it comes to food. That is the result of a survey of 345 households in Bonn, Paderborn and Nuremberg. 33 percent of those in need of care had a body mass index of over 30. This is "obesity" and therefore dangerous to health, according to Dr. Thomas Ellrott from the German Nutrition Society:

"If relatives look after family members in need of care at home, then they have to realize that the provision of food is an aspect that should not be underestimated for the state of health. And that is why they simply have to think about what is there to eat, how is it the weight history, and be a bit careful on the subject. "

48 percent of the senior citizens questioned complained of "unwanted weight gain" in the course of their need for care. According to the German Nutrition Society, they get too much meat, too much fat, too little vegetable food. In the case of the very old, however, the picture changes suddenly. With increasing helplessness - when swallowing difficulties, loss of appetite and depression make life difficult - the nutritional situation turns into the opposite - into a lack of supply, notes Professor Helmut Heseker, President of the German Nutrition Society:

"And these unwanted weight losses are often not really noticed. You often do not always have the right options - at least in the family environment - to still prepare food in such a way that it can be swallowed easily, that it is finely pureed and so on. A weight loss does not only mean a loss of fat mass, but also a loss of muscle mass. And less muscle mass means that the susceptibility to falls increases and that, especially in old age, the mobility decreases and maybe at some point the ability to walk will be lost. "

86 percent of the elderly in need of care at home get the warm meals from their relatives. Only in a little more than ten percent of cases is "meals on wheels" ordered, a service that had performed surprisingly well in previous studies. Nursing courses for relatives have been around for many years. Helmut Heseker would like more help with questions of nutrition for the relatives caring for at home:

"It goes without saying that you first convey the knowledge how, on the one hand, you can determine a poor nutritional status relatively easily using simple means. On the other hand, you can also provide targeted assistance on how you can improve your diet anyway. If, for example, there is a loss of appetite and large portions can no longer be eaten, you can of course start with finger food: give many small meals throughout the day. If not enough drinking is a factor, which is not so rare because the feeling of thirst gets lost with many very old people, you can put a quantity of drink of the day somewhere in a visible place so that the very old person can constantly see what he needs to drink. So that he has an external requirement to drink. "

The German Nutrition Society is now calling for more information and advice specifically for caring relatives. "Outpatient nutritionists" - according to the study - could offer home visits. Health insurance companies, general practitioners and nursing advice centers should also act as "multipliers", for example adult education centers should offer appropriate courses. The food manufacturers, in turn, are encouraged to develop tasty and nutritious dishes. Studies show: malnutrition carries a high risk. The death rate is increased by a factor of four compared to seniors of normal weight.