Posted on 05/05/2011 at 05:54:37 PM by Student BloggerBy: Gopi M.
Mohammed Bouazizi is THE name- a small time fruit vendor who shook the geo-political landscape big time. Just like everyone else, even I followed the Jasmine revolution dethrone the dictator and infect the youth of other nations in the Middle East. Egypt followed suit, as I reveled in the vicariousness of overcoming the odds by the young. All this felt good to the romantic in me, but being a scientist that I am, one constant statistic caught my eye-that the youth below the age of 25 formed the majority of the total population in these developing nations. As I began to think I asked of the potential consequences to this significant group when it reaches the retirement age. From a nutritionist standpoint what are the implications on the current youth once it reaches senility? I began to delve deeper.
As people age, the nutritional needs also change due to significant waning in the absorptive and metabolic capacity of the human body. People older than 65 years of age are beset by a dramatic rise in age-related degenerative diseases and are also prone to decreased intake of nutrient leading to malnutrition. This in turn, further compounds the problem, as it puts them at an elevated risk to develop and/or aggravate other age-associated disorders. A vicious cycle takes shape. Hence, the adequate intake of proteins and micronutrients by the elderly is necessary to obviate the development of these ailments and the associated morbidity, by improving several bodily functions. But realism is an entirely different beast from idealism. In a developed nation like the United States, along with calcium, the total energy intake by the elderly is lesser, while the fat consumption is higher than the recommended requirement. In conjunction with this, the US is also plagued by food insufficiency in the elderly. If this is the state of a developed nation, one can imagine the plight of an undeveloped nation with a huge proportion of its peoples on their last knobbly legs.
According to the 2009 report on population ageing by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, the elderly population is on the rise. Since 1950, when the population above 65 years of age stood at 8%, it increased to 11% in 2009 and is expected to reach 22% by 2050, tripling every 40 years. The numbers with regard to the developing nations are more alarming. Currently, the elderly account for 8% of the total population and are projected to be at 20% by 2050, giving these nations comparatively less time to make amendments to meet the challenge than their developed counterparts. The young people, who are necessary to tend to the old, are also going to be disproportionally lower. This imbalance is going to have dire and far-reaching ramifications. Unless necessary steps are taken, the problem is going to take the place of HIV/AIDS, TB and other epidemics that ravage the younger populations in the underdeveloped nations.
So what significance does this hold to the field of nutrition? It is vital to extend support and muscle to nutritionists to take the innovations and knowledge to developing world since innovation without dissemination is not progress. Hence, it is in the best interest of these nations to provide the needed infrastructure and support for the successful development of programs for the prevention of the diseases of the elderly as well as treating them. Since the developed world also has a great stake in this scenario, it is important that the innovations are subsidized in the developing countries just like the drugs and vaccines are being provided to treat infectious diseases in the under-developed nations. As I write this, I realize that it is for selfish reasons because if I live till 65 I am going to be in that category too. And I am certain that we are going to be a big painful bunch.