Nutrition and Obesity

What we need to consume in a healthy diet changes as we get older. In basic terms many adults will be aware that they should consume around 2,500 calories per day (adult males) and 2000 calories per day (adult females).

Are these general figures correct?

obesewaistThe answer is complex and depends on many factors. In fact the daily nutritional requirements will depend largely on your age. Children need less calories than teenagers and teenagers need more than adults!

In the UK there is a real concern that we consume too many calories. In 2010, 41.6% of men and 31.7% of women in England were overweight (BMI 25-30), and an additional 26.2% and 26.1% respectively were obese. People who are obese have a shorter life expectancy and are at a greater risk of developing diseases such as coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

It is of concern that many children are now overweight or obese. In 2010, 13.9% of girls and 15.3% of boys aged 2-10 were obese and this increased to 16.6% and 19.9% respectively in 11-15 year olds. Also, type 2 diabetes is now increasingly seen in obese adolescents.

A further complication of poor nutrition and obesity is the effect on the musculoskeletal system. A high prevalence of low back pain and arthritis in the weight bearing joints (hips and knees) is extremely common in the overweight and obese population. You may find relief from having hands-on treatment to help you deal with your pain and a therapist will advise you as to how to modify your exercise and diet, however you will find, below, some general guidelines on how to manage your diet and lifestyle to reduce the risks of obesity.


Adults aged 19-50

In comparison to adolescents, energy requirements are lower for both men and women in this age group. The high fuel foods (carbohydrates and fats) are needed in smaller quantities whilst protein intake should be about the same as for adolescents.

Recommendations for young adults:

  • Make a deliberate effort to keep physically active.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Reduce the amount of fats and salt in the daily diet.
  • Be careful to include foods rich in iron and calcium.
  • Establish healthy eating habits that will be carried on into later life.

There are also specific nutritional requirements for groups such as the pregnant and breast-feeding and we are happy to give tailored advice where required.

Adults aged 50+

fruitandvegEnergy requirements decrease gradually after the age of 50 in women and age 60 in men as people typically become less active. Protein requirements decrease for men but continue to increase slightly in women. The requirements for vitamins and minerals remain virtually unchanged for both men and women.

There is one exception – after the menopause, women’s requirement for iron is reduced to the same level as that for men.After the age of 65 the RNI (Reference Nutrient Intakes – protein, vitamins and minerals) for vitamin D is 10 µg/day and it is recommended that all adults over 65 take a daily supplement of 10 µg vitamin D. The reduction in energy needs, coupled with unchanged requirements for vitamins and minerals, means that the nutrient density of the diet becomes even more important. Nutrient density means the quantity of vitamins and minerals in relation to the amount of energy supplied by the foods and drinks consumed.

Recommendations for OLDER adults:

  • Be as active as possible to encourage your appetite and maintain muscle mass.
  • Remain healthy with well-balanced eating and regular exercise.
  • Eat foods that are nutrient dense rather than energy dense, including eggs, lean meats, fish, liver, low-fat dairy foods, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruit and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.
  • If possible, try to spend some time outside each day to boost your vitamin D synthesis for healthy bones.
  • Limit foods that are high in energy and low in nutrients such as cakes, sweet biscuits and soft drinks.
  • Choose foods that are naturally high in fibre to encourage bowel health.
  • Limit the use of table salt, especially during cooking.
  • Choose from a wide variety of foods and drink adequate fluids.


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