Age has an important impact on body composition. The decreases of lean body mass and total body water accompanied by an increase of body fat are the most relevant changes leading to a reduction of the basal metabolic rate. Due to this and the fact that elderly people are generally less physically active, energy needs are lower. However, the requirements for most micronutrients are not reduced. Indeed, impaired absorption of some vitamins and minerals like cobalamin and calcium can cause deficiencies. An adequate calcium supply is particularly important as with ongoing age, bone mass decreases as well, making elderly prone to osteoporosis. The reduced ability to synthesize vitamin D and the lower sunlight exposure of many elderly further aggravate this issue. There is evidence to consider the supply of some important dietary antioxidants as critical in some elderly, namely vitamin C and β-carotene as well as zinc. In light of age-related decreases in the activities of antioxidant enzymes, a sufficient supply of dietary antioxidants is important, especially as oxidative damage is thought to contribute to the deteriorating processes associated with aging and promote cardiovascular disease, cognitive disorders, cancer and diabetes mellitus that occur more frequently in older people. The first three are also associated with an insufficiency of folate, another critical nutrient in the elderly. Therefore, dietary guidelines should strive to optimize the immune function and reduce disease risk of the elderly.

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