Thriving for healthy ageing
The number of people over 60 years old is growing and expected to double by 2050, reaching 2 billion people , or more than 22% of the global population by then; that is 1 in 5. (WHO 2016)
As the world is getting older, people not only life longer, also the quality of their late life is improving. Health problems occur about 10 years later in life in comparison with previous generations, and leading mortality risk factors have shifted from formerly infectious diseases to modern lifestyle-related or so-called non-communicable diseases such as overweight and obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases or cancer. Today’s seniors are more urban, wealthy, and independent. They are also more mobile and informed, with many living alone. Wishing for a long fulfilled and active life, health awareness increases, and healthy aging and the prevention of diseases becomes a main concern and driver.
During ageing the body slows done as a continuous process that occurs over several decades and that is associated with changes in appearance as well as body functions. Most common changes of the body and related health issues are summarised in the Figure. Some of these occur earlier in the process like for instance visual impairments, body composition changes or bone mineral density decline, others occur later in the process like for instance difficulties in chewing and swallowing.
Changes in nutritional requirements go along with this. Energy needs decline when the body is less active and the metabolic rate decreases; or the body composition changes with the loss of muscle mass and bone mass. On the other hand, needs for essential nutrients still remain high. Under these conditions, following a balanced diet with smaller portions and a shift towards food choices with low calories and high content of essential nutrients seems most appropriate. But also blood sugar management plays a role
Relevance of blood sugar management
As part of the ageing process, the body’s capability to handle rising blood glucose levels and also its insulin sensitivity gradually decline. The number of people with impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes mellitus rises with age and shows highest numbers in the senior population: Prediabetes occurs in about 1 in 9 adults over 60, diabetes mellitus occurs in almost 1 in 5 (IDF 2015). With an estimated 200.5 million people aged 65-79 years with diabetes mellitus in 2040, these numbers are expected to rise even further in coming years (WHO 2016).
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity shall be part of a healthy ageing strategy of those, who thrive for a long active live, respectively. Making foods with low or reduced glycaemic properties part of their carbohydrate-based diet will help them in their blood sugar management.
The role of isomaltulose in senior nutrition
Isomaltulose has a low effect on blood glucose levels and insulin, resulting in an improved metabolic profile. Making isomaltulose part of a low glycaemic diet, as alternative to higher glycaemic carbohydrates, has shown long-term benefits on weight management and body composition, the prevention of fatty liver and insulin resistance, and blood glucose control. Therefore, isomaltulose can be used as an effective tool to support a low GI diet in the healthy aging process.
Additionally, when glucose tolerance declines with age, this can affect cognition. It has been described in literature that those with better glucose tolerance have a better memory. Vice versa when the body’s glucose tolerance tends to become impaired upon ageing, those with poorer glucose tolerance show a poorer memory (Young and Benton 2014a). Blood sugar management not only helps to improve glucose tolerance, furthermore, improving glucose supply may also help to improve cognition and mood. This has been illustrated by Young and Benton (2014b) who used a breakfast concept with isomaltulose in place of sucrose or glucose in cross-over design: Isomaltulose with its sustained energy delivery improved memory and mood in those middle age and older adults (45 to 80 years) with better glucose tolerance and no cognitive decline, whereby most pronounced effects were seen in the late morning.
International Diabetes Federation, IDF Diabetes Atlas 7th Edition 2015. http://www.diabetesatlas.org/
WHO (2016) World report on ageing and health. Link: http://www.who.int/ageing/events/world-report-2015-launch/en/ (retrieved 28.08.2016)
Young H, Benton D (2014a) The nature of the control of blood glucose in those with poorer glucose tolerance influences mood and cognition. Metab Brain Dis 29(3):721-8. doi: 10.1007/s11011-014-9519-2.
Young H, Benton D (2014b) The glycemic load of meals, cognition and mood in middle and older aged adults with differences in glucose tolerance: A randomized trial. e-SPEN 9(4):e147–e154. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnme.2014.04.003