THE elderly should not follow especially restrictive diets if they do not have any illnesses, according to Dr Margalida Lozano, a nutrition expert, who gave a lecture at the General Hospital on the occasion of National Nutrition Day.
She also recommended the elderly to follow a varied diet, divided into five or six meals a day.
She added that many elderly people who went to hospital generally ate clear soups, very few vegetables and bread with olive oil and tomato, the popular pa amb oli, without adding charcuterie to it. I would recommend them to add a little cheese or ham, to complete the diet, she said.
She also indicated that problems which led the elderly to follow an incorrect diet were poor dentures or missing teeth, little mobility for shopping for food, the difficulty of making some dishes, rejection of some types of food and loneliness.
She recommended the elderly to eat every day two portions of fresh vegetables, two portions of fish, meat or eggs, two or three pieces of fruit and a minimum of eight glasses of water.
Lozano explained that the sensation of thirst disappeared with age and it was important now that summer is here to make pensioners aware of the fact that they should drink plenty of water.
She also spoke of the fear of some people of eating food with sugar, such as fruit. A controlled consumption of fruit would be advisable in these cases, she said, adding that they could eat pieces which are easier to chew.
Two months ago, the General Hospital of Palma introduced a new system of choosing the menu which will soon be introduced at the Joan March and Psychiatric Hospitals.
Lozano explained that it was a different system to that of other hospitals in Spain, as instead of giving the patient a list of food and letting them choose, nutritionists explain to the patient what he or she can and cannot eat.
The objective is to educate them on nutrition, the doctor said.
If there is a risk of malnutrition, the progress of the patient is followed through the family doctor and the out patients department.
Throughout the day, leaflets on nutrition were handed out at the Son Dureta, Son Llátzer, General, Joan March, Psychiatric and Palmaplanas hospitals in Palma, Can Misses in Ibiza, and the market at Llucmajor.
Specialists were also available at the information points to answer specific questions from the public.
Questionnaires were also distributed to be used in an analysis on eating habits and the risk of malnutrition in the elderly. The results will be published in due course.
Brochures were also delivered on the trays on which hospital meals were served.
This year, experts made use of the Day to underline the problems affecting certain groups such as the elderly.
According to several surveys, 50 percent of the elderly who live in geriatric homes suffer from malnutrition, the percentage rising to 65 percent in hospitals.
The experts also warned of a high incidence of anorexia in over-65s who live in geriatric homes. It affects more than one third of the inmates, men as well as women.
During the day, experts provided information on new concepts of nutrition, which place great importance on a good breakfast.
It should include carbohydrates, fibre, products with omega 3 and dairy products.
Recommendations include greater consumption of varied fruit and legumes, fish (reducing consumption of meat and charcuterie), drinking more water, taking more exercise and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
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