Healthy Aging: The lifelong task of getting the right micronutrients
The right supply of micronutrients in the right balance is crucial –
starting from the time a new life begins
Every life phase has its challenges that place special requirements on nutrition. Micronutrients play an important role at every step, from family planning to birth, growth, learning, immunity, coping with family and job stress, and all the way to healthy aging.
Micronutrients, such as vitamins, trace elements, amino acids, essential fatty acids and secondary plant metabolites, are involved in over 100,000 metabolic processes. Whether bones, cartilage, muscles, immune system, brain, skin, hair or nails, every single cell in our body requires these building blocks for metabolic processes to take place. Many micronutrients have synergistic effects, meaning that a lack of one can impair the function of another. The right supply of micronutrients in the right balance is crucial – starting from the time a new life begins!
The first 1000 days make all the difference for a good start in life
The nutrition of a child during the first 1000 days of its life, including pregnancy, forms the basis for lifelong health into old age. During this time, a child needs to get an optimum supply of all important macro- and micronutrients. During pregnancy and breast feeding, some micronutrients are needed in greater amounts than normal, so nutritional supplementation is recommended starting from the time a couple decides to try for a child. In fact, it can help beforehand, by helping to create the ideal conditions for fertility.
In addition to the prevention of defects through folic acid supplementation, the mother’s consumption of the omega 3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid contributes to the healthy development of the brain, eyes and vision of the foetus and infant. The trace elements iodine, zinc, selenium and iron are of fundamental importance for the development of the unborn child’s thyroid hormones and brain structures. Furthermore, the bones of foetus and mother alike benefit from a sufficient supply of calcium and the fat-soluble vitamins D and K. A high percentage of women of child-bearing age don’t get enough vitamin D!
Supporting children’s growth
The next phase in a child’s development through the end of puberty is also of critical importance for lifelong health. Balanced nutrition supports psychological and physical development. Through this phase of increasing cognitive challenges, growth and defence against infections, there is a growing need for further micronutrients like the B vitamins and vitamins A, C, and E.
Unfortunately, even in Europe with its wealth of raw materials, children do not always get the micronutrients they need, according to a study¹ from 2015. Two independent surveys on micronutrient consumption by European children were evaluated. Children in the four age groups studied (4 to 6 years, 7 to 9 years, 10 to 14 years, 15 to 18 years) were particularly likely to be deficient in vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, iron, iodine and phosphate, with detail results varying from country to country. Calcium, phosphate and vitamin D play a key role through age 30 in building peak bone mass. In view of the risk of osteoporosis in advanced age, it is crucial to avoid deficiency in childhood through to young adulthood.
For children at risk of micronutrient insufficiency, targeted supplements can be beneficial to protect them from growth disorders and other negative consequences.
Health into the “golden years” – micronutrients as the ideal accompaniment
In adulthood, staying healthy into old age has a lot to do with lifestyle. No tobacco, only a little alcohol, regular exercise but also relaxation, and a healthy diet (like the traditional Mediterranean diet) create the ideal conditions for enjoying a healthy old age.
However, as we age, many physical functions decline, for example:
- Cognitive performance declines, especially memory and stimulus conduction in the brain.
- The strength of innate and adaptive immune defence decreases. These age-related changes are also known as immunosenescence and lead to higher susceptibility to infection, among other things. The increased formation of inflammatory messenger substances in the body can also lead to chronic inflammation (inflamm-aging).
- Vascular elasticity and heart muscle strength decline. Arteriosclerosis aggravates these age-related processes. Susceptibility to hypertonia and other cardiovascular diseases increases.
- Muscle and bone tissue decrease. The risk of falls and injury increases.
- The metabolism slows, and resorption of micronutrients becomes less efficient.
In recent years scientific research has discovered more and more connections between unbalanced diet and chronic diseases like adipositas, diabetes mellitus type 2, fatty liver, dementia, cardiac disease, stroke and cancer. Among other causes, this can be ascribed to free radicals. Thus, an adequate supply of antioxidative micronutrients provides good protection against chronic illness in old age. During illness and when taking medication, the body also often needs an additional supply of micronutrients to help reduce oxidative stress and compensate for deficiencies, including those caused by medications.
Giving health a leg up
Nerve cells benefit – not just in old age – from antioxidants and B vitamins. The latter improve energy metabolism, memory performance and concentration. Coenzyme Q10 is also effective for energy production. Omega 3 fatty acids support cognitive performance. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, micronutrients also contribute to heart protection and to bone and immune strengthening.
Harvard University² recommends comprehensive supplementation with all vitamins and trace elements in order to be on the safe side. According to Harvard researchers, even people who pay attention to their diet can experience deficiencies. Their recommendation: Taking a multi-vitamin can be a good nutrition insurance policy!
Older people often affected by micronutrient deficiencies
Food supplements are especially beneficial for older people, since they are more likely to have micronutrient deficiencies. For example, the KORA Age Study³ (2017), which examined 1079 Germans aged between 65 and 93, shows that one in two people above 65 is deficient in vitamin D. One in four gets too little vitamin B12. There are also gaps in the supply of folic acid and iron. Another conclusion from the study was that “regular intake of vitamin preparations leads to a better supply of the respective vitamins,” although a healthy diet naturally lays the foundation.
Conclusion: By 2050 16 percent of the world population will be older than 65, twice the amount in 2010. In Europe, in 2050 more than one in four people (27.8 percent)⁴ will be over 65. With people today living longer than in the past, the right micronutrient supply in youth lays the groundwork for health in age.
Are you familiar with our book “Micronutrients work. Little extras. Big benefits”?
We recommend this book with its practical focus to all creatives in the food industry who are involved in new ideas for functional foods, nutritional supplements and the like.
Reference work: The benefits of micronutrients
We don’t just see ourselves as a producer of micronutrient premixes. We would like to support you in the early stages of product development. Our reference work serves as a sources of diverse inspiration. It explains which micronutrients are suitable for selected supplementation applications. The 116-page practical guide is available from the Robert Wenzel publishing house.
1 Kaganov, B. et al. (2015): Suboptimal Micronutrient Intake Among Children in Europe. Nutrients, DOI: 10.3390/nu7053524
2 The Healthy Eating Pyramid, by The Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition: https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2012/10/healthy-eating-pyramid-huds-handouts.pdf
3 Conzade, R. et al. (2017): Prevalence and Predictors of Subclinical Micronutrient Deficiency in German Older Adults: Results from the Population-Based KORA-Age Study. Nutrients, DOI: 10.3390/nu9121276
4 German Federal Statistical Office, quoted from de.statista.com, 2021: Projected population development of people over 65 years of age by world region, 2010 to 2050
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