The aging of the population is accompanied by numerous physiological, sensory, psychological and sociological changes … all factors likely to modulate the eating behavior and the nutritional status of seniors. This is the observation drawn up by a group of French researchers * who identified profiles of eaters via a vast survey carried out among a panel of seniors. In their study published in the journal Appetite, the researchers were able to identify7 “typical eating profiles” among seniors and show that there are indeed several different profiles within the same population. A valuable tool for offering tailor-made food.
The survey was conducted among 559 French over 65, selected in several cities and according to different life situations: at home or in an institution, independent or dependent. The scientists then asked them several questions: “How often do you eat meat?” “,” Do you need help preparing your meals? “, ” Do you think that eating is a source of pleasure ? “,” Can you get up from your chair 5 times in a row? “…” In total, more than 50 variables were collected from each participant thanks to a battery of questionnaires, sensory tests and physical exercises “, specifies the scientific team.
Morale is not the same according to the profiles
Among the seven profiles of eaters discovered, the first three essentially group together “Young” seniors under 80 years old, with good nutritional status. These people differ from each other in their food preferences, desire for healthy food, and interest in food.
- Thus, profile 1 (50% of men) eats with pleasure and with a good appetite, especially meat.
- Group 2 (80% of women) is sensitive to the effects of diet on health.
- Finally, the 3rd category (86% women) morale is at half mast, food choices governed more by emotions and a decrease in olfactory capacities compared to the first two.
The last four profiles include people over 80 and which are characterized by a increased nutritional risk.
- People in profile 4 are active and healthy people and have many similarities to those in profile 1: an appetite for meat products and good self-esteem.
- Those in profile 5 maintained a good appetite while being sensitive to the health food link, like those in profile 2.
- The members of profile 6 group together people having difficulty eating (oral disorders, pain in the mouth…).
- Those in profile 7 are subjects suffering from loneliness and presenting symptoms of depression.
An intervention to better fight against undernutrition
It is in these last two profiles that the nutritional status is worrying. Indeed, “83% of undernourished people or at risk of undernutrition against 16% in profile 4 and 39% in profile 5, this risk is less than 10% in the “young” senior profiles ”, specify the researchers. An important discovery, which underlines the heterogeneity of the determinants of eating behavior within the elderly population, with a turning 80. Above all, it highlights the need to develop targeted interventions to fight against undernutrition among seniors, taking into account their living situation and their difficulties, but also their dietary preferences and beliefs.
The researchers thus conclude on the fact that “this type of survey constitutes support for research aimed at developing and ensure preventive nutrition, adapted to the requirements of each period of life and of each person ”. Undernutrition results in weight loss, including decrease in muscle mass. This weakening can be dangerous for health, it must therefore be detected as soon as possible, by weighing itself regularly. It is also important to determine the factors that may be involved: decreased appetite due to a feeling of fullness that occurs more quickly, loss of taste, taking medications that suppress appetite or even poor oral health which makes chewing more difficult.
* Study carried out by a group of researchers from ESA, ONIRIS, INRAE, Dijon University Hospital, Angers University Hospital, University of Tours and University of Lille.