Can Umami Help Us in Our Golden Years?
As we discussed in the Newsletter, “Can Ajinomoto Co. Export Japan’s Healthy Lifespan?”, Japan may be the first country that faced an “elderly boom,” but this segment of the population is increasing all around the world1. From France, where a quarter of the population is over 60 years of age2, to the countries of Southeast Asia, where the average of reached 9.6 percent in 20163, the world is turning its attention to the care of its most senior members.
Japan has spearheaded the concept of the “healthy lifespan.” The idea is actually quite simple: longevity may be wonderful, but it’s a lot better if the elderly can be happy, active, productive, and self-sufficient. As a result, much attention is being paid to not only helping people live longer, but also living healthier into their old age. And it’s clear that many other countries share the same goal. A recent study in the city of Lyon, France concluded that it’s necessary to eat well in order to age well. In the United Kingdom, there is a trend towards people working longer, and the State Pension age is planned to increase to 67 years old within the next few years. And countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia are considering how to keep food appetizing for their elderly members, who, like elderly people everywhere, experience a decrease in appetite.
Why Do they Get Less Nutrition?
A variety of physical changes decrease people’s ability to gain necessary nutrition when they get older. Many people in this age group use dental prosthetics, which can change the taste of foods due to the metal they contain. There is a reduction in the number of taste receptors in the mouth and throat, which of course leads to a decrease in the ability to taste foods, and at the same time the ability to secrete saliva decreases, making it harder to swallow. And there is a total loss of muscle strength in the jaw and tongue, adding further difficulty to a process that most of us take for granted: eating.
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