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.
The Problems with Nutritional Supplements
Nutritional supplements are designed to try to provide the nutrients we need without too many calories. But 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 these drinks are used 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 g 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.
And 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 denture, a high-sugar diet can contribute to the growth of oral bacteria, increasing the risk of gum disease.
Addressing Appetite Problems
One of the key problems that leads 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. And if there are infected teeth or gums, there may be a persistent bad taste that makes eating unpleasant.
If unhealthy teeth are the problem, they can be treated or extracted. 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. And if the dentures fit poorly, making it hard to eat, then food is also a hassle, and 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. And implant dentures don’t need the full plate on the top, which will improve your sense of taste.
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.