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Tufts Experts Introduce the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults

Tufts Experts Introduce the Modified MyPyramid for Older AdultsTufts researchers have updated their 1999 Food Guide Pyramid for Older Adults to correspond with the Internet-based USDA food pyramid, now known as MyPyramid.

Boston [01.07.08] Adults over the age of 70 now have a new resource to help them improve their diets: the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults. Created by Tufts experts, including lead author Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., this version of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid is tailored for older Americans in both appearance and content.

The Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults is modeled after the USDA's MyPyramid, a web-based program which debuted in 2005 and enables users to obtain dietary information that is specific to their weight, height and sex. Concerned about computer use among older adults, Tufts researchers wanted to create a food guide especially for this group.According to Lichtenstein, the printed Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults is meant "for general guidance" or for use as a supplement to the MyPyramid program.

"As individuals age they tend to need fewer calories," Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts, told KUT 90.5, the National Public Radio affiliate in Austin, Texas. "But their nutrient requirements either remain the same or they go up, which means that they have to make particularly good nutrient dense choices in order to actually achieve an adequate intake."

Published in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults is intended to assist people in making those choices. It emphasizes the importance of eating whole, enriched and fortified grains and cereals, bright-colored vegetables, deep-colored fruits, low- and non-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs. It also stresses the need for fluid intake and, for the first time, physical activity.

"Regular physical activity is linked to reduced risk of chronic disease and lower body weights," Lichtenstein said in a statement that was published by a variety of media outlets, including Reuters Health and HealthDay News. "Government statistics indicate that obesity in adults 70 years and older has been increasing, physical activity is one way to avoid weight gain in later years and its adverse consequences."

The top of the pyramid sports a flag, calling attention to the importance of calcium and vitamins B12 and D. The need for these "can increase as we age and some people find it difficult to get adequate amounts from food alone, especially when calorie needs go down," Lichtenstein said in the statement. She said the flag should remind older adults to discuss this need with their healthcare providers if necessary.

"However, we continue to emphasize that the majority, if not all, of nutrients an older adult consumes should come from food rather than supplements," said Lichtenstein, who is also the Stanley N. Gershoff Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. To that end, the Modified MyPyramid has plenty of examples for older adults to follow. Icons on the illustrated guide include whole wheat bread, bags of frozen vegetables, mixed dried fruit, vegetable oil, non-fat yogurt and tofu.

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