The World Health Organization defines the 'elderly' as persons of 60 years of age and older. The elderly constitute a rapidly expanding segment of populations in both developed and developing countries. This is the combined result of ever-longer survival and dramatic reductions in fertility rates. Regardless of age, people must respond to their feelings of hunger and thirst by consuming foods and beverages. This eating and drinking behavior also serves to provide the nutrients to nourish the body. The amount of a nutrient that must be ingested and absorbed to maintain an adequate and appropriate body composition varies with age across the life span, depending on basic underlying physiological and metabolic processes specific to the chronological stage of life. The degree to which we retain and conserve, or excrete or degrade, absorbed nutrients is influenced by chronological age and biological aging.
As a consequence of this new demographic reality, attention is being focused belatedly on gerontology and its nutritional biology; this, in turn, is reflected in very recent efforts to refine our knowledge of the amounts of various macro- and micronutrients that the aging body requires (nutrient requirements) and of the amounts that must be consumed in the diet to provide for sufficient uptake of these nutrients (nutrient recommendations).
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