As we get older, our attitude toward food can change. Some seniors may put on dangerous amounts of weight, but it’s more common for seniors to lose weight quickly.

One approach to try to counter this trend is to use nutritional supplements. However, there is concern that the nutrition provided by these supplements may actually be harming seniors’ health, including their oral health.

green Nutritional Supplement drink

The Problems with Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements are designed to try to provide the nutrients we need without too many calories. However, there’s really no substitute for actual food when it comes to nutrition. So the attempt to replace food with a substitute is likely to fall short in some ways.

Part of the problem is that people use these drinks to replace meals. Although they are sometimes called “meal replacement drinks,” they should only be used that way as part of a weight loss program. For someone who is trying to maintain or gain weight, there’s just not enough nutrition in these shakes.

Another big problem is that these drinks are very high in sugar. For example, one can of Boost contains 20 grams of sugar. That’s 80% of the sugar intake recommended by the American Heart Association for women, 56% of the intake recommended for a man.

Although weight gain is an ostensible benefit of consuming these beverages, there are still many potential consequences of using a high-sugar source for weight gain. Consuming large amounts of sugar calories can cause the blood sugar level to spike, blood pressure to spike, and contributing to elevated blood cholesterol levels.

The high sugar diet can also be bad for the oral health of seniors. In seniors who still have their teeth, it can increase their risk of tooth decay and tooth infections. Even if a senior has dentures or dental implants, a high-sugar diet can contribute to the growth of oral bacteria, increasing the risk of gum disease.

Dangers of Nutritional Drinks for Seniors

You might think that a nutritional health drink for seniors is a great supplement to their diet but oftentimes, they’re anything but healthy. For example, Ensure is made with cow’s milk which means it comes with all the side effects if one’s lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance often increases with age so giving a senior a bottle of Ensure can lead to diarrhea, nausea, and flatulence which will only make their appetite worse.

These nutritional drinks for seniors can also interact with certain medications. The average senior takes at least five prescriptions per day. The high vitamin amounts in health drinks for seniors can have an adverse effect when combined with other medications. For example, most health drinks are high in vitamin K but if someone consumes too much vitamin K it can affect the efficiency of blood thinners. If you’re not sure if any of your prescriptions interfere with protein drinks, bring them along to the pharmacy to talk with a pharmacist.

The Best Nutritional Drink For Seniors

If you’re adding a nutritional drink between meals for seniors to help them meet their calorie goals, there are several drinks that aren’t filled with sugar. These include Ensure High Protein shake, Ensure Light, Boost Max, Boost Glucose Control, Glucerna, and Premier. When it comes to choosing the best nutritional shake, make sure that it’s low in sugar, high in protein, and it offers the best nutrients without interfering with prescriptions. You can also make your own at home using protein powder and other ingredients.

Addressing Appetite Problems

One of the key problems that lead to weight loss among seniors is just a lack of appetite. There are many reasons why seniors experience a diminished appetite. It’s important to find the root cause of the problem and address it to help seniors eat more natural foods.

Many health conditions can contribute to a reduced appetite or accelerated weight loss, including ulcers, thyroid disease, dementia, and depression. Medications can also cause a lack of appetite. Check medications for this side effect and determine whether the medication needs to be changed or the dosage altered.

Unhealthy teeth can be a problem here, too. Teeth that are sensitive can make eating painful. In addition, if they have infected teeth or gums, they might experience a persistent bad taste that makes eating unpleasant.

If unhealthy teeth are the problem, a dentist can treat or extract them. This can also help seniors stay healthy and enjoy a more active and longer life.

Bad dentures also play a big role in a loss of appetite. A traditional upper denture plate covers most of the upper palate. The upper palate is as important for taste as the tongue, so many denture-wearers lose their appetite because all food seems bland. If the dentures fit poorly, make it hard to eat, then food might feel like a hassle that just isn’t worth it.

Implant dentures restore the bite. With implant dentures, you have 90% of the bite force you did with natural teeth. Implant dentures also don’t require the full plate on the top, which will improve your sense of taste.

Staying Hydrated is Essential

In addition to getting the right amount of calories and nutrients throughout the day, it’s also essential for seniors to drink enough water. Most prescription medications seniors take have a side effect of dry mouth. Dry mouth can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath. Combine dry mouth with high sugar shakes and it can lead to even more dental problems. Seniors should drink at least eight glasses of water per day and sip throughout the day, not only when they’re thirsty. Drinking enough water will help ensure they wash away the bad bacteria in their mouth.

Better Teeth for Better Eating

If you suspect that unhealthy teeth or bad dentures are impacting your health or the health of a loved one, we can help. Please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a Rochester, NY dentist at Contemporary Dentistry on South Clinton Ave between Elmwood and Westfall in Brighton.