Nutrition, health and ageing

Whilst lifespan continues to increase, with over 65 year olds now the fastest growing age group across the globe, the Health Profile for England report shows we are not necessarily living healthier lives, and the average health-span has reduced by over a year from 2011-2016. 

Not only has this resulted in the greatest proportion of healthcare expenditure now being concentrated in the over 65 year olds, age is also a risk factor for a plethora of chronic diseases relating to metabolic, cognitive and physical health. This opens discussion about the opportunities that an ageing society presents and the necessary strategies to address the associated health issues.

The Nutrition Society’s Irish Section conference takes place for the first time at the University of Limerick, 17-19 June 2020. The conference will explore current nutritional issues influencing metabolic health and anthropometric, lifestyle and dietary concerns in ageing. Discussions will also focus on new and existing strategies to address these issues, including the development of novel biomarkers of nutrient status, approaches to enhance screening and assessment, and their implications for future food and nutrition policy.

Immune system function declines with age, and below a certain threshold of immune competence, risk of infection increases and vaccination response decreases (for example to the flu vaccine). This is inevitable to some degree, however immune decline is greater in older people with poor nutritional status or low intakes of energy and micronutrients, highlighting the importance of nutrition. Similarly, those consuming low amounts of energy and protein are at an increased risk of sarcopenia, the progressive loss of skeletal muscle beyond the normal ageing process that severely affects a patient’s quality of life and independence, and is a predictor of functional decline, hospitalisation, and even mortality.

New research suggests the gut microbiota may have a beneficial role to play, with probiotics and synbiotics potentially improving the host immune response and reducing side effects associated with antibiotics. This will be a particular focus of the conference, with both Professor Paul O’Toole from the University of Cork and Dr Eibhlís O’Connor from University of Limerick discussing interventions for gut microbiota modulation and their impacts on metabolic health.

The Mediterranean dietary pattern has also gained recent interest as a potential dietary strategy given the observed differences in longevity and chronic disease prevalence in those populations adhering to it. Dr Audrey Tierney, University of Limerick, will be exploring the results of randomised controlled trials that have looking at the impact of this diet on heart and liver health.

Review the full programme.  Abstract submission closes 27 March 2020, early bird deadline 20 May 2020. 

Watch the video below to find out more about Nutrition Society conferences. 

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