Recent studies have indicated that regardless of the decline in physiological performance seen in men aged 50 years and over, their range of abilities is actually equal to younger age groups.1 When it comes to the quality of life, physical health is the leading factor contributing to the individuals well-being.2 Because health, diet and illness are so connected, inadequate dietary intake can have a major impact on cardiac, gastrointestinal and immunological functions as it compromises overall resistance to foreign invaders. Interestingly enough, evidence points towards nutritional status as a critical determinant of an individual’s health status early in life, as well as later on.3
The older man and nutrition
Statistically speaking, the energy intake of older men (aged between 40-70) is approximately 1/3 less than that of men between 25-35 years. Calorific intake declines based on a decrease in the basal metabolic rate brought on by a gradual thinning of lean body mass tissue as age progresses. With a decrease in lean muscle mass and energy intake, it’s easy to see how crucial it is to consume foods that are heavily packed in vitamins and minerals, also known as ‘nutrient-dense’ foods. However, data indicates that individual nutrient intakes of men over 50 years tend to see a dramatic decrease in protein and essential macro- and micronutrients.4
Dietary interventions should encourage nutrient-dense and low-fat foods, as well as increasing the variety of food choice. This includes fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that contain calcium and vitamin D for additional support. In order to get the most out of any weight management strategy, it’s best to add in physical activity as an added measure to combat decreases in muscle mass. As nutrient intake declines, maintaining an active lifestyle could prove advantageous in order to minimise potential adverse effects as exercise is known to increase appetite. 4-5
There is an intricate relationship between skeletal muscle and bone mass throughout life. Nearly one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Ageing comes with a decrease in bone formation and bone mineral density. Physical activity and poor diet have such profound effects on both muscle and bone mass in later life. Bone and muscle mass peak in adulthood but decline in age with approximately a loss of 1-2% muscle mass per year in individuals over 50 years.6
A significantly greater life expectancy is seen in populations living healthy lifestyles. In men over 50, exercise improves the overall muscle strength and functionality. As research suggests, nutritional intake and status is multifaceted in the sense that when combined together, appetite, food diversity, physical activity, body mass, and social atmosphere all impact the individual wholly.7
Vitamin B6 is particularly significant as it plays a biological role in amino acid metabolism where it provides enzymes that participate in the synthesis of amino acids and neurotransmitters. Studies show a negative relationship between cognitive function and vitamin B6 deficiency and research observed an improvement in relation to memory-related abilities when supplemented with vitamin B6. This vitamin deficiency occurs in the ageing population and is generally associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease risk. The immune system can be compromised in a vitamin B6 deficiency as the individual faces low lymphocyte counts.9
Multiple studies highlight that large intakes of vitamin B6 have potential protective qualities against cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol levels. Vitamin B6 can be found in food sources such as meat, fish, liver, egg yolk, whole grains, cereals, leafy green vegetables, as well as produced by intestinal bacteria.10
Another nutrient of interest is Biotin. Research implies that deficiencies in biotin are correlated with appetite loss, dermatitis, hair loss, and poor skin quality. Biotin is essential in an array of physiological functions in the body, including energy production involving carbohydrates, fat and protein metabolism.11
EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) recognise that biotin has a positive correlation with the growth and strength of hair and overall skin health. The reason this correlation exists is based on research indicating that a biotin deficiency does, in fact, lead to hair loss and reduced fat metabolism. It is rare to develop a biotin deficiency but in those that do, they will benefit most from supplementation to reverse the side effects. Biotin is also reported to decrease blood sugar, which has substantial benefits for individuals who are suffering from type 2 diabetes.11
In plants, biotin is found in its free form, while its protein-bound form is found in animal tissues, microorganisms, and dairy products. Regarding human nutrition, the best sources to obtain biotin comes from liver, kidney, milk, egg yolk, soy, leafy green vegetables, nuts and yeast. Also, intestinal flora, also known as gut bacteria, have the ability to synthesise biotin.11-12
Similar to biotin, copper is equally as essential to our health as it is imperative to maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to literature, the name copper is Latin and originates from the island of Cyprus, located in the eastern parts of the Mediterranean, where most of the copper sources were mined. It is said that in Ancient Rome, copper was used as a symbol for Venus, with whom Cyprus viewed as sacred.13
This mineral facilitates in normalising metabolic processes involved in normal growth of organs and tissues, includes utilising iron efficiently, enzymatic reactions, as well as proper maintenance of connective tissues, hair, and eyes. Not only is copper fundamental in combatting premature ageing and increased energy production, it also regulates and balances cardiac rhythm, thyroid gland function, eases arthritic symptoms, enhances wound healing, and speeds up the formation of red blood cells, all of which are issues that arise as an individual ages due to normal physiological functions.
Individuals suffering from arthritis might benefit from copper as the mineral has anti-inflammatory effects which contribute to the reduction of symptoms and pain. Copper has protective qualities that ensure systems in the body, such as the skeletal, nervous and cardiovascular systems, are working in an orderly fashion. Additionally, copper protects the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves and plays a role in elastin production, which is an essential element in connective tissue that maintains skin flexibility.13-14 The average Westernised diet provides less than 2 mg of copper as the mineral can be found in a variety of foods. This includes meat, whole grains and flours, seafood, nuts, avocados, beans and legumes. Copper can also be obtained through drinking water or using copper cookware.
Manganese is next on the list of beneficial nutrients for men over 50. Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral found in our bodies that assists in metabolic processes involved in tissue formation, calcium absorption, maintaining proper thyroid and sex hormone functions, and blood sugar regulation. Manganese is an extremely powerful antioxidant, wherein it is both an anti-inflammatory and neutralises free radicals within the human body. In doing so, the mineral prevents harmful effects including cell damage and, potentially, cancer. Therefore, it can be stipulated that supplementing with manganese possesses protective properties against diseases and/or foreign invaders.15
Our bodies contain roughly 20 mg of manganese, centralised in the kidneys, liver, bones, and pancreas. This mineral is essential in maintaining the nervous system, therefore essential to the brain. It is required to grow and develop bone structure and is highly efficient in increasing the spinal column’s mineral density whilst also playing a role in fracture prevention. Research indicates that manganese may prevent osteoporosis by inhibiting its progression if taken in supplemented form.16
Manganese can be found in a variety of food sources that include berries, pineapples, grapes, oats and nuts, mixed greens, whole wheat and oats, bananas, carrots, and cucumbers to name a few of the most important. Other sources include brown rice, coconuts, almonds and green vegetables.17
Ginseng is one of the most popular and widely used herbal remedies; the most common types are American and Asian ginseng. The ginseng plant has a pale green leaf colouring, with a long stalk and oval-shaped leaves, and a distinctive forked-shaped root. In nature, ginseng’s appearance is classified depending on the length in which it has been growing - fresh, white or red – which also correlates to the time in which ginseng is harvested. Fresh ginseng is harvested following a 4-year growth period, white is harvested following 4-6 years and red is harvested following a growth period of 6 years.18
Both American and Asian ginseng differ in their active compound concentrations, ginseng extracts and ginsenosides, which affects the ways in which the herb acts on the body. Like manganese, ginseng is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties and increases the capacity in which a cell holds antioxidant properties. Studies indicate that the anti-inflammatory properties in red ginseng improved the activity of antioxidants in skin cells affected by dermatitis. Additionally, ginseng may have the ability to enhance functions in the brain that deal with memory and behaviours, whereas the ginsenosides prevent damage caused by free radicals in the brain.19
Literature states that the American type of ginseng possesses relaxing agents, while Asian ginseng has stimulating effects. Regardless of the type, all varieties of ginseng are believed to have energy-boosting properties, decrease blood sugar and cholesterol levels, manage stress by promoting relaxation, as well as managing prevalence of sexual dysfunction in men. While ginseng has a wide range of health benefits, either proven or stipulated, it is infamous for the incredibly bitter taste, so it is best to incorporate it in a drink that counteracts the taste.20
- Gillum, H. L., Morgan, A. F., Jerome, D. W., Votaw, M. H., & Snowden, M. (1955). Nutritional Status of the Aging: I. Hemoglobin Levels, Packed Cell Volumes and Sedimentation Rates of 577 Normal Men and Women Over 50 Years of Age: Nine Figures. The Journal of nutrition, 55(2), 265-288.
- Chandra, R. K., Imbach, A., Moore, C., Skelton, D., & Woolcott, D. (1991). Nutrition of the elderly. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 145(11), 1475.
- Casper, R. C. (1995). Nutrition and its relationship to aging. Experimental gerontology, 30(3-4), 299-314.
- Munro, H. N., Suter, P. M., & Russell, R. M. (1987). Nutritional requirements of the elderly. Annual review of nutrition, 7(1), 23-49.
- Demontiero, O., Vidal, C., & Duque, G. (2012). Aging and bone loss: new insights for the clinician. Therapeutic advances in musculoskeletal disease, 4(2), 61–76. doi:10.1177/1759720X11430858
- Curtis, E., Litwic, A., Cooper, C., & Dennison, E. (2015). Determinants of muscle and bone aging. Journal of cellular physiology, 230(11), 2618-2625.
- Madden, A. M., & Smith, S. (2016). Body composition and morphological assessment of nutritional status in adults: a review of anthropometric variables. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics, 29(1), 7-25.
- Waern, R. V., Cumming, R. G., Blyth, F., Naganathan, V., Allman-Farinelli, M., Le Couteur, D., ... & Hirani, V. (2015). Adequacy of nutritional intake among older men living in Sydney, Australia: findings from the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project (CHAMP). British Journal of Nutrition, 114(5), 812-821.
- Janos Zempleni, Donald M Mock, Bioavailability of biotin given orally to humans in pharmacologic doses, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 69, Issue 3, March 1999, Pages 504–508
- Bailey, R. L., & van Wijngaarden, J. P. (2015). The role of B-vitamins in bone health and disease in older adults. Current osteoporosis reports, 13(4), 256-261.
- Sahin, K., Tuzcu, M., Orhan, C., Sahin, N., Kucuk, O., Ozercan, I. H., ... & Komorowski, J. R. (2013). Anti-diabetic activity of chromium picolinate and biotin in rats with type 2 diabetes induced by high-fat diet and streptozotocin. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(2), 197-205.
- Dakshinamurti, K. (2015). Vitamins and their derivatives in the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome diseases (diabetes). Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 93(5), 355-362.
- Lowndes, S. A., & Harris, A. L. (2005). The role of copper in tumour angiogenesis. Journal of mammary gland biology and neoplasia, 10(4), 299-310.
- Richmond, S. J., Gunadasa, S., Bland, M., & MacPherson, H. (2013). Copper Bracelets and Magnetic Wrist Straps for Rheumatoid Arthritis–Analgesic and Anti.
- Benevolenskaia, L. I., Toroptsova, N. V., Nikitinskaia, O. A., Sharapova, E. P., Korotkova, T. A., Rozhinskaia, L., ... & Grudinina, O. V. (2004). Vitrum osteomag in prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: results of the comparative open multicenter trial. Terapevticheskii arkhiv, 76(11), 88-93.
- Grados, F., Brazier, M., Kamel, S., Duver, S., Heurtebize, N., Maamer, M., ... & Fardellone, P. (2003). Effects on bone mineral density of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in elderly women with vitamin D deficiency. Joint Bone Spine, 70(3), 203-208.
- Pham-Huy, L. A., He, H., & Pham-Huy, C. (2008). Free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health. International journal of biomedical science: IJBS, 4(2), 89.
- Im, D. S., & Nah, S. Y. (2013). Yin and Yang of ginseng pharmacology: ginsenosides vs gintonin. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 34(11), 1367.
- Park, E. Y., Kim, M. H., Kim, E. H., Lee, E. K., Park, I. S., Yang, D. C., & Jun, H. S. (2014). Efficacy comparison of Korean ginseng and American ginseng on body temperature and metabolic parameters. The American journal of Chinese medicine, 42(01), 173-187.
- Geng, J., Dong, J., Ni, H., Lee, M. S., Wu, T., Jiang, K., ... & Malouf, R. (2010). Ginseng for cognition. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (12).