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A Food Guide Pyramid for People Over 70

March 30, 2000


Three Tufts University researchers have tweaked the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid to come up with guidelines that they say more accurately represent the dietary needs of older consumers.

The Food Guide Pyramid was developed by USDA in 1992 as a visual representation of a healthful diet for people over the age of two. However, Tufts researchers believe seniors have some specific nutrient needs not addressed in the "one size fits all" Food Guide Pyramid, prompting them to make some modifications.

The base of their revised pyramid is narrowed, signifying the reduced need for calories common among seniors. With an estimated calorie intake of 1200 to 1600 calories per day, consumers 70 years of age and older have to make every calorie count in order to get enough of the essential nutrients. The "70+" consumers should discuss with their health care provider.

The Tufts researchers point out that these dietary recommendations are aimed at healthy, mobile seniors with the resources needed to prepare adequate meals. It is not designed to consider the special dietary needs of those with significant health problems, nor does it address socioeconomic factors, such as decreased income and mobility, that make it harder for many seniors to meet nutrient needs. But all seniors, regardless of circumstances, should still hear the pyramid's main messages: people over age seventy have specific nutrient needs, and how well they meet those needs can impact overall health status.

The "70+" pyramid is now just a suggestion; it has not yet been adopted as an official USDA teaching tool. But the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services are in the process of revising the US Dietary Guidelines on which the USDA Food Guide Pyramid is based, and the Tufts researchers are hoping that their "70+" pyramid will generate some discussion on how best to address the unique nutrient needs of seniors.




Tufts Nutrition Commentator, March 1999
website: http://commentator.tufts.edu/archive/nutrition/pyramid.html

Cathi Lamp, UC Tulare County Nutrition, Family & Consumer Science Advisor