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The Top Nutrition Guide

The Top Nutrition GuideAccording to The Wall Street Journal, a Tufts-authored food pyramid is the best nutrition guide for older adults. Boston.

Boston [11.10.03] Fewer calories, more water, and more dark-colored fruit and vegetables. Sound like the latest fad diet? Hardly; it's the Modified Food Pyramid for 70+ Adults -- an innovative Tufts-designed eating plan recently named the top nutrition guide for older adults by The Wall Street Journal.

"Most people have seen the traditional food pyramid, the well-known graphic presentation of a healthy diet drawn up by the Department of Agriculture. But there's another pyramid out there - specifically for older adults - assembled by nutrition researchers at Tufts University," reported the Journal.

Developed in 1999 to address the needs of an aging nation, the Modified Food Pyramid for 70+ Adults features nutrition recommendations designed for mature adults.

"We're becoming a country of older individuals who expect to live longer and remain healthy. People want advice on how to do that. The pyramid can help people to make small, easy changes within context of what they already enjoy eating," Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., one of the developers of the pyramid and a professor at Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy told Tufts Nutrition Magazine.

Lichtenstein collaborated with Robert M. Russell, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts, and Helen Rasmussen, a Tufts research dietician and nutrition faculty member, to develop the pyramid.

By tapping the expertise of researchers at Tufts - who have documented the nutritional status and needs of the elderly, as well as the role different nutrients play on aging - "we were able to develop a pyramid that is based on actual research," Russell told Tufts Nutrition Magazine.

The result, according to Journal, is "the best nutrition guide" - offering innovative advice specifically geared to the needs of older adults.

"It looks much like the traditional triangle, but stresses more water and fiber and fewer calories. The scientists' thinking: Older Americans tend to be less active, and their body composition changes, so they need fewer calories," reported the Journal.

As Lichtenstein told National Public Radio's All Things Considered, "We have to look at people as they're getting older, and try to figure out how we can help them maintain weight."

While older people tend to need fewer calories, their nutrient needs stay the same or increase. Thus, the 70+ pyramid emphasizes nutrient-dense foods like darker-colored fruits and vegetables that have high levels of vitamins.

"We suggest eating dark, leafy greens like spinach, orange and yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash, and colorful fruit like strawberries and mangoes that are richer in Vitamins A and C and in folic acid," Russell told Tufts Nutrition Magazine.

While the Tufts pyramid was intended for those over 70, it can be modified for other adults as well.

"The researchers designed the guide for people 70 and older, but say it can be used by people in their 50s and 60s as well - with one exception: People in their 50s and 60s need vitamin D equivalent to what's found in one quart of milk each day. Those in their 70s and up need the amount in one and a half quarts," reported the Journal

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