Nutrition for older persons


In the light of the pressing need to review factors affecting the nutritional status of nutrition guidelines, the Department of Nutrition has collaborated with the programme on Ageing and Health on a number of nutrition and ageing activities, especially contributing to the 1999 International Year of Older Persons (see

There has also been collaboration older persons, and to update relevant with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, USA. These efforts led to the organization of a joint consultation in Boston (1998) on the most recent scientific data on the role of nutrition in disease prevention and health promotion among older persons.

Recommendations were made at this meeting concerning:

  • epidemiological and social aspects of ageing;
  • factors affecting dietary intake and nutrient absorption in older persons;
  • nutritional requirements of older persons;
  • nutrition and older persons in developing countries;
  • nutrition and immune function among older persons;
  • dietary guidelines for older persons;
  • community support for improved nutrition for older persons; and community-based interventions.


During the production of a comprehensive report, representing the outcome both of the preparatory work and of the consultation itself, it was recognized that new information emerging in several key areas should also be included.

The combined results, which are presented in Keep fit for life. Meeting the nutritional needs of older persons (WHO, 2002), are intended as an authoritative source of information for nutritionists, general practitioners, gerontologists, medical faculties, nurses, care providers, schools of public health and social workers. The specific recommendations concerning nutrient intakes, food-based dietary guidelines, and exercise and physical activity should also interest a larger audience, including the general reader.

The main body discusses the epidemiological and social aspects of ageing, health and functional changes experienced with ageing, the impact of physical activity, assessment of the nutritional status of older persons, and nutritional guidelines for healthy ageing. Additional material covers food-based dietary guidelines for older adults – with particular emphasis on healthy ageing and prevention of chronic noncommunicable diseases – and guidelines for promoting physical activity among older persons.