Older people could help slow the diseases of ageing by improving their diet, according to research carried out by Tilda, the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing which is being carried out by Trinity College, Dublin.
The latest research from Tilda, which began in October 2009 as a continuing engagement, through medical examinations and interviews, with almost 10,000 people aged 50, shows that the daily diet of one in seven participants does not comply with the recommendations of the so-called food pyramid.
This quantifies the recommended daily intake of a range of food types, from food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt, down through meat and fish, dairy produce, fruit and vegetables and carbohydrates.
People in the study are consuming almost three times as much drink and food high in fat, sugar and salt as is healthy for them, and over 25 per cent more fats and oils as is good for them.
On meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts, however, most are consuming 1.9 servings a day on a recommended intake of two servings.
When it comes to dairy produce, such as milk, yogurt and cheese of which three servings a day is recommended, most are having just 2.1 servings daily.
Of the five a day recommended intake of fruits and vegetables, the over 50s are having 3.6 servings. Intake of carbohydrate (bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice) is recommended at over six servings a day but the over 50s are having just four.
The survey found that one in eight were deficient in vitamin D, that figure doubling to one in four during winter. The deficiencies were more common among over 50s living in the north and western parts of the country, as well as generally among those overweight, less physically active or living along and smokers.
Nine out of 10 older adults had visited their doctor in the past year. Two out of five have a medical card and a third have private health insurance but 10 per cent have neither.
Falls were common, affecting two out of five with 20 per cent requiring hospital care and 60,000 older people generally needing medical attention every year.
Risk factors for falling included unsteadiness, depression and a fear of falling precipitating actual falls.