On April 1, I presented a talk at a drug therapy conference in Vancouver in which I critiqued the evidence for benefit from healthy eating. Long story short, there is shockingly little evidence. And this is for all ages. Fat, sugar, and salt in the diet make almost zero difference to real health outcomes, according to good-quality studies. Antioxidants and fiber likewise.
If you add to that the fact that frail old people are almost never represented in studies, and that their differences from younger people, and from one another, make it almost impossible to generalize about prevention of any kind for them, the case for feeding them “healthy” food starts to look pretty weak.
Anybody who has tried the food in most nursing homes, especially where there is an enthusiastic nutritionist on the job, could be forgiven for deciding not to go back. And elderly people’s taste buds don’t work as well as they did when they were younger, so if we remove the sugar from the deserts, the salt from the stews and steaks, and the fat from everything including the ice cream, problems with weight loss and depression will only be made worse.
My conclusion: feed old people what they like! If you believe in multiple vitamin supplements, fine, add those, but it seems to me verging on criminal to take away one of the last and most easily accessible pleasures from these folks whose lives may most benefit from a little bit of comfort. And while we’re at it, it might be worth taking a look at our own eating habits and asking a few questions about why we don’t eat exactly what we like.