Food & Fitness After 50: Dietary Supplement Q&A

frequently-asked-questions

In June of this year I developed a webinar for Today’s Dietitian titled, “Dietary Supplement Use in Older Adults: Help, Hype, or Hope?” (Click here to access the webinar.) The webinar ended with a robust Q&A. Time ran out before we could get to all of the questions and some of them were tough to answer. In my teaching days I told students to seek out experts when they didn’t know the answer to a question, so I turned to an expert in dietary supplements to help me. Dr. Anthony Thomas is the Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas and he jumped in to answer your questions. I’ve tapped Dr. Thomas in the past when you asked about probiotic supplements…click here for a link to that post.

Question: The number 1 question involved supplement ingredients. Many people believe that all supplement ingredients are manufactured in China and they expressed concerns over quality issues with Chinese ingredients.

“Ingredients for use in dietary supplement manufacturing are sourced from all over the world, including China,” explains Dr. Thomas. “Quality ingredients are quality ingredients regardless of their country of origin and in fact a number of companies headquartered in other countries have manufacturing set up in the U.S., too.”

thOne suggestion that I routine make when asked about supplements is to look for a quality brand, like Jarrow Formulas (disclosure, I have no connection to Jarrow Formulas, but I do use some of their products because I recognize quality supplements.). A quality brand often uses third-party verification or endorsement. That means that a brand contracts with a third-party certifying agency to test their products. One of the most well-known is USP which stands for United States Pharmacopia. When you see the USP symbol on a supplement it tells you that the supplement:

  • Contains what the ingredient label says it contains and, in the amount, listed
  • Doesn’t contain contaminants
  • Will dissolve or break down in the body and get absorbed into the blood stream in a specific time frame
  • Has been made with good manufacturing processes (GMPs) as outlined by the Food & Drug Administration.

NSF-Certified-for-sport-blue-and-orange-196x300Another well-known third-party entity that evaluates supplements is NSF. The NSF certification also helps consumers know they are getting a quality supplement.  When I worked with athletes at the university, we looked for NSF certified supplements because they test supplements to ensure that they do not contain substances banned by their sport governing body.

Question: What is the difference between a supplement called a nutraceutical vs. nootropic?

Dr. Thomas defines it this way, “a supplement called a nutraceutical is more-or-less a fancy term (not a legal term) for dietary components or dietary supplement ingredients with purported health benefits beyond nutritive value.  Nootropics are a subset of ingredients that positively influence cognitive function(s).”

Question: Is there a B12 supplement source for vegans? What form of B12 is best absorbed in older adults?

Vitamin-B12“All forms of B12 used in dietary supplements are suitable for vegans since they are synthesized chemically. Look for one that says suitable for vegans because some capsules are made with gelatin. Jarrow Formulas makes a chewable form that is appropriate for vegans,” says Dr. Thomas. “Thus, the concern about vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans is easily overcome.”

As for the “best” form of B12, Dr. Thomas explains, “despite the marketing hype, there is not good evidence of differences in absorption between different forms of the vitamin. There is limited evidence suggests that methyl-B12 may be better retained by the body and reduced elimination in the urine compared to cyanocobalamin.  Methyl-B12 seems to be the preferred form by consumers, but that is likely due in large part to marketing rather than research demonstrated superiority. Some suggest that methyl-B12 is not suitable for all the body’s needs as if it cannot be converted to right form, but this is incorrect.” The bottom line is that some marketing might make it appear that there is a “best” form but all forms are used by the body.

 Question: How do you know if supplements of omega 3s are not rancid?

Fish-Oil“Unfortunately, smell is not always indicative of oxidative degradation.  If the product is stored away from heat and light exposure, it should be fine, although I often just keep my bottles in the fridge,” says Dr. Thomas. “Soft gels are usually formulated with antioxidant ingredients to protect against oxidation.”  As with other supplements, buy supplements from a reputable brand with a long-standing reputation of quality. That is my recommendation, as well as Dr. Thomas’ recommendation. He adds, “of course this recommendation may seem self-serving given the company I work for.  However, there is increasingly more direct consumer brands primarily available online as they can contract the manufacturing of the supplement and just put their label on the product but it may or may not have all the other quality control measures in place to ensure safety, potency, and quality.  We see more problems with products from such companies, not all or most, and it is often guilt by association for the entire industry. In fact, Jarrow L. Rogovin, the man who started Jarrow Formulas in 1977, relied on contract manufacturers but after so many issues over the years, he eventually invested in the development of our own manufacturing nearly 20 years ago.

Thanks to Dr. Thomas for helping me answer your questions on dietary supplements. Keep the questions coming!

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Celebrate the Sandwich During National Sandwich Month

earlofsandwichmythorfactDid you know that August is National Sandwich Month? The sandwich was popularized in the 1700s by  4th Earl of Sandwich, (Sandwich is a medieval town in southeast England in the county of Kent.) The legend goes that the Earl asked for a hunk of beef between two slices of bread so he could hold the meal in one hand while he played cards. One of his companions is to have said, “I’ll have the same as Sandwich,” and thus the humble and delicious sandwich was born.

how-to-buy-healthy-breadWhat makes a truly great sandwich? The overwhelming response to that question is bread, with 42% of people saying the bread is most important ingredient in a sandwich.

Many folks give up bread thinking that it has too many calories or carbs. In a 2017 study, researchers found that all grain foods, including breads, contributed less than 15% of all calories in the total diet, while delivering nutrients that are in short supply in the diet of many Americans, as well as nutrients needed for healthy aging, including dietary fiber, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin A. (Papanikolaou Y & Fulgoni VL. Grain foods are meaningful contributors of nutrient density of American adults and help close nutrient recommendation gaps: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2012. Nutrients. 2017: Aug 14;9(8). 

And, in this time of coronavirus, we are turning to comfort foods and that includes bread. In a national survey, approximately one-third of Americans named pasta (36%) and bread (29%) as foods that are comforting during a stressful time. Of all the comfort foods that Americans turn to in times of stress, they recognize bread and pasta among the most nutritious.

120405183406-stacked-sandwich-super-169I like to think of bread and other grains as the perfect vehicle for carrying protein-rich foods. Sandwiches, wraps, pita pockets, and crackers can carry needed protein, vegetables and healthy fats. Specifically, whole grains also provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. While research is still emerging and further research is needed, a variety of plant-based compounds in whole grains may impact oxidative stress, suggesting that reducing oxidative stress by consuming whole grains is a likely mechanism for the protective effect from diseases associated with aging.

National Sandwich Month is the perfect time to enjoy a sandwich for dinner. In the dog days of August heat, make a sandwich for dinner and pack with veggies, quality protein fillings, and healthy fats for a tasty meal. It is the ingredients between the slices of bread that should be the focus of delivering a healthier sandwich. With so many delicious breads to select from, choose your favorite and be mindful of the filling. Know your stuff before you cut, and modify the sandwich filling, not the best part…the bread!

Here are some sandwich ideas to get you started and I’d love to hear your favorite sandwich, too! All these sandwiches go great with a side of fresh summer fruit, such as berries, melon, or peaches.

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  • Sliced tomato and avocado sandwich with lettuce on toasted whole wheat bread
  • Grilled turkey burger topped with grilled onions and peppers on a toasted brioche bun
  • Roasted veggies (artichokes, peppers, mushrooms) tucked into a pita pocket
  • Deli turkey meat with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on hearty rye bread
  • Tuna salad with sliced olives, lettuce, and tomato on sour dough bread
  • Cold slices of chicken wrapped into a tortilla and topped with salsa
  • Grilled lean beef burger with sliced cucumber, red onion, and tomato served in a pita pocket with tzatziki sauce for a Greek-style sandwich
  • Grilled chicken sausage on hot dog bun with sauerkraut
  • Bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon with capers and red onion slices
  • Cuban sandwich with leftover pork loin, a slice of ham, pickles, and cheese on a toasted baguette
  • Thinly sliced tart apple, cheddar cheese, and chicken panini
  • Egg salad on sweet Hawaiian roll
  • Olive tapenade and goat cheese on grilled French bread
  • Grilled cheese; but change it up using different cheese (spicy Jalapeno Monterey Jack!) on your favorite bread

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Is There an Optimal Protein Intake for Older Adults?

A recent paper from three international protein gurus reviews the science behind the recommendations that older adults need more protein than young, healthy adults. The opening sentence of the paper sums up the current state of the science: “The optimum protein intake for adult health remains controversial.” How could that be?  The authors explain that why we know general requirements for protein we don’t know optimal intakes. Why there are limits to what we know about protein and aging?

  • Older adults, especially older women, are often not included as participants in research studies on protein needs.
  • Recommendations for protein are often derived from young, healthy adults. Healthy is a key word because we know that many older adults have chronic health conditions. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer affect 3 of 4 adults over the age of 65.
  • Research studies that look at protein intake and muscle mass in older adults are of short duration; most last less than 6 months. Since muscle loss is gradual, the short-term studies may not have time to show a positive effect of increasing protein.

While we may not have the definitive answer to the question posed in the title of this post, there is much we do know and here are some key points from the article:

  • The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is inadequate for older adults due to something called the “anabolic resistance” of muscle. (Anabolic means building up and is the opposite of catabolic or breaking down.) Anabolic resistance means that the signals to build up muscle through strength training or eating protein is muted in older adults. This resistance can be overcome with an increased amount of strength training or a higher intake of protein.
  • When older adults experience a period of muscle disuse, which can occur during illness or injury, signals to muscle protein are blunted and a practical way to overcome this is through a higher protein intake, especially protein-rich foods that contain a key amino acid, leucine. Protein is made up of units called amino acids and 9 of the 22 amino acids are considered essential, meaning that we can’t make them in the body, so they must be consumed through diet. Leucine is one of the 9 essential amino acids and has been found to play a critical role in protein synthesis.
  • Sarcopenia, literally meaning vanishing flesh, is the progressive loss of muscle as we age. It doesn’t start when we are 60; it starts at about the age of 40 (even earlier in those who are inactive). Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass due to sarcopenia and inactivity.

So, where does all of this leave us? The authors conclude that older adults should increase protein…both quality and quantity at meals. Consuming at least 30 grams of protein per meal, with 2.5 grams of leucine or more can overcome the anabolic resistance of aging muscle. While not all studies agree on meal timing, the authors also conclude that spreading the protein evenly across meals is better than backloading all the protein at one meal.

So, what does that mean for us? To recap to maintain muscle you need two things: progressive, resistance strength training and nutrition. Protein is a key nutrient for building and keeping muscle.  A few facts about protein:

  • High quality protein contains all 9 of the essential amino acids (EAAs) and includes:
    • Animal protein (beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, kefir, yogurt)
    • Soy protein (tofu, edamame, soy burgers, patties, crumbles, soymilk, cheese, yogurt)
  • The following foods do not contain all the EAAs, but they contribute to total protein intake:
    • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), almond butter, seeds (sunflower, chia, flax), legumes (peanuts, pinto, navy black beans, split peas, black-eyed peas, and other starchy beans and peas), peanut butter, pasta, rice, and whole grain bread.
  • Try and spread the protein evenly in 3-4 meals each day.

Examples of 30-gram protein meals

Sample meals and snacks with ~30 grams of protein

6 oz Greek yogurt (18)*

1 oz granola (4)

Small banana (1)

Skim milk latte (6)

2 scrambled eggs with 1 oz cheese and spinach (21)

8 oz soymilk (7)

½ slice whole grain toast (2)

Smoothie made with 1 ounce whey protein powder (20)**

6 oz Greek vanilla yogurt (18)

½ cup frozen berries (1)

Large green salad with veggies (2)

4 oz grilled chicken or salmon (28)

1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (1)

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)

3 oz tuna mixed with mayo (21)

2 slices of whole grain bread (7)

Lettuce, tomato, banana peppers or other veggies (2)

1 cup pasta (6)

3 oz turkey or beef meatballs (21)

Green salad with balsamic vinegar dressing (1)

1 cup cottage cheese (28)

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)

3 slices fresh or canned peaches (1)

Stir fry with ½ cup tofu (10)

Carrots, broccoli, edamame (16)

1 cup brown rice (5)

3 oz cheddar cheese (21)

6 whole grain crackers (2)

8 ounces skim milk (8)

*grams protein in parentheses

 **most protein powders have ~20 grams protein per serving, but check labels

For those not used to thinking in terms of grams of protein (probably most of you), here are a few keys to understanding protein:

  • 1-ounce of beef, pork, fish, poultry, and cheese has about 7 grams of protein. Most of us don’t eat 1-ounce portions of these foods, so if you eat a 5-ounce portion of grilled salmon for dinner, you’ve eaten 35 grams of protein and that doesn’t count the other foods you have with the meal.
  • Dairy foods are rich in protein, the amino acid leucine, as well as other nutrients needed for muscle health such as vitamin D and calcium. 8-ounces (1 cup) of dairy milk has 8 grams of protein, but 8-ounces of ultra-filtered milk, such as Fairlife, has 13 grams of protein. Contrast that with Silk Almond milk that has only 1 gram of protein per serving. The point is that not all “milk” is a rich-protein source.
  • Foods carry a nutrition facts panel that tell you 2 important pieces of information: the serving size is of the food and how many grams of protein are in in one serving. That’s an important thing to keep in mind because you might be eating more than the stated serving size, meaning you are also getting more protein.

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  • I like to look for snacks that are nutrient-rich but not too high in calories. My recent favorite is kefir, a fermented milk drink with 11 grams of protein in 8-ounces, and is rich in probiotics, too.

I reached out the authors (aka, protein gurus) to ask them for a practical take-away from their article.

Meet the gurus

Dr. Stuart Phillips is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada (follow him on twitter @mackinprof).

“I’d recommend emphasizing the consumption of nutrient-dense sources of high-quality protein like dairy and eggs at meals that are traditionally lower protein: breakfast and lunch. My go-to protein food at breakfast (and sometimes lunch too) is Greek-style yogurt or Icelandic Skyr. Both are cultured dairy, rich in high quality protein, and many other necessary nutrients, and tasty and versatile as a base for berries and nuts.”

Dr. Doug Padden-Jones is a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism at The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas .

“For generally healthy adults, establish a dietary framework that includes a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal. Factors such as energy needs, physical activity, health status, body composition goals, and satiety should be weighed to determine protein needs. But, During periods of  physical disuse (injury, illness, inactivity) middle-age and older adults are at increased risk of muscle/function loss so just meeting the RDA for protein ( 0.8 g protein/kg/day)  is insufficient. Aggressive support with high quality protein (whey /leucine) and activity may help preserve muscle health.”

Dr. Donald Layman is a an emeritus professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition a the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois. (Follow him on twitter @donlayman).

 “A key for maintaining muscle health as we get older is dietary protein. Surprisingly, adults have higher protein needs than children because we have a continuous need to repair and replace proteins in our body but our efficiency of making new proteins declines with age. The best proteins are meats (including fish), eggs, and dairy. Vegetable proteins are popular, but they always have lower quality than animal proteins. You will need to consume 30% to 50% more total protein if you chose to use plant proteins. So, a 25 g whey protein shake would require at least 35 g of soy protein to be equivalent.” 

 

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Health Resources Available at Your Fingertips

If you are watching or reading the news about the coronavirus you’ve gotten no nonsense information  from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases or NIAID. What you might not know is that is that NIAID is one of 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health or NIH.

apple-blue-background-close-up-1353366The NIH is the world’s largest medical research agency and the website contains a vast amount of health information not just for scientists or researchers, but for everyday consumers, like us.

Many of my friends and neighbors know I am a registered dietitian and that I write about health and aging, so it is not unusual for me to get questions about diet and disease prevention or management. While I taught classes on medical nutrition therapy when I was on faculty at Georgia State, that was a while ago and I haven’t kept up with all the research on diet and disease management. Too often when people ask their doctor for nutrition advice, they get generic advice, such as “eat better and exercise more.” So, what do I tell people? I usually start by telling them that there is a lot of great, free information from reputable websites that they miss when they just google their specific concern. Enter the NIH websites.

What constitutes a reputable website? For me, it is one that provides information that is grounded in science and backed by evidence.  Another hallmark of a good health website is one that doesn’t rely on anecdotal testimonies from satisfied customers. Anecdotes make for compelling stories, but they don’t constitute evidence. I also stay away from websites that are trying to sell me something…the profit motive can bias the information.

That leads me to share some of my favorite NIH websites to learn more about the latest prevention and treatment strategies for various disease which affect many Americans. You won’t find flashy supplements that promise to cure you (and take money from your pocket) and you won’t find the magic, easy solution that many look for. You will find sound, credible information. So, when you have questions on (fill in the blank) check out these sites from the NIH:

  • When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 the first place I looked for information was the National Cancer Institute .From general information on cancer types, treatment and prognosis to specific cancers, this is a great place to start gathering information, including a list of questions to ask, before you talk to an oncologist.
  • For all things eye health, check out the National Eye Institute. As we age, we have more vision changes, from the normal age-related change presbyopia (the reason we need bifocals) to diseases like age-related macular degeneration. To learn about the symptoms, treatment, and latest research to prevent disease, start here. And, there is the good advice to get regular eye exams and give your eyes a break after 20 minutes of screen time.
  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute covers a variety of disease affecting the cardiovascular system and blood disorders. From A-Fib to Varicose Veins, this is the place to go. And, there is a lot of helpful information on medical devices like pacemakers and CPAP. heartHealth-1034500194-770x553-650x428
  • We’ve featured information on the National Institute on Aging in previous posts for information on healthy aging, but there is much more than nutrition on the site. Learn about the advances in geroscience, exploring the intersection of aging, biology, chronic disease, and health. Or get a free copy of Exercise & Physical Activity from Go4Life.
  • Arthritis is a common complaint of aging adults and you can learn about treatments at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. You will also find information on bone health and osteoporosis in this Institute.
  • I’m often asked about diet for digestive issues and the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases is a good place to start. I’m sharing the link for the diet and nutrition section because there is timely information on diet for irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, gallstones, and many other disorders.
  • While there are many for institutes within NIH, and I encourage you to browse the website, the last center I want to mention is the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine . Many of you are interested in alternative treatments and this is good place to start learning about how various alternative treatments can complement traditional medical care. From herbs to acupuncture to Ayurvedic medicine, know the research that supports (or in some cases, refutes) what you think you know.

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Sadly, many people are rejecting science today. They complain that scientists are always changing their minds, so they are not trustworthy. But it is the nature of science to continue exploration which can lead to new information, especially with emerging and rapidly evolving diseases, such as COVID-19. The same is true for nutrition and health information, stay on solid ground and get good, unbiased information in your quest for good health.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: The Scoop on Collagen

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Dr. Bob enjoying his just desserts after a long bike ride

Survey data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a trade association for dietary supplements) shows that 78% of adults over the age of 55 take supplements. Reasons for supplement use include overall wellness and healthy aging. It is no surprise that people are asking about one of the hottest supplements…collagen. I reached out to my friend and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50 to ask him some of your top questions about collagen. Dr. Bob Murray is an exercise physiologist and is passionate about exercise and health. He consults with many companies on hydration, protein, and supplement use in active populations, including older adults.

Let’s start with the basics. What is collagen and are there different types of collagen in the body?

Collagen-structure.800x345-wWe can think of collagen as the glue that holds us together. Collagen is the name for a large family of proteins found in the body.  In fact, there are so many types of collagen proteins that collagen turns out to be the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen proteins make up connective tissues throughout the body.  The term “connective tissues,” makes many people immediately think of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, three good examples of connective tissues.  Muscles, skin, and bones also contain large amounts of connective tissues and therefore large amounts of the collagen proteins that intertwine to give those tissues the structure, strength, and elasticity required for the many different roles required of connective tissues. It should be obvious that the connective tissue in bone has a different role to play compared to the connective tissue in muscles or skin. That’s why so many different kinds of collagen proteins are needed throughout our bodies.

When I was younger, I remember my friends dissolving Knox gelatin in water and drinking it to strengthen their nails. Is gelatin the same as collagen?

The connective tissues of cows, pigs, and chickens are the primary source of gelatin produced for human consumption.  As a result, gelatin is rich in collagen proteins.

Is collagen a complete protein, that is one that contains all the essential amino acids needed by the body?

Collagen is an incomplete protein and is low in the amino acids that are associated with building muscle mass and strength.  However, collagen proteins are high in two amino acids—glycine and proline—that appear important in stimulating the growth of connective tissues in physically active people.

There are many claims for collagen supplements…from preventing wrinkles and strengthening skin to improving joint flexibility and strengthening muscles and bone. Is there any good human evidence that collagen supplements will help with any of those body systems?

The best way to sum up the current state of affairs is that the benefit claims for consuming collagen are long on theory and short on evidence.  That’s not to say that there isn’t some evidence suggesting benefits to skin, joints and muscles, but that evidence has yet to reach the levels of quality and quantity required to draw comfortable conclusions about the magnitude and reproducibility of the benefits associated with consuming collagen proteins on a regular basis.

It is well known and accepted that protein is needed for muscle protein synthesis, is collagen any better than simply getting more protein from whey protein or other protein-rich sources?

iStock Older man lifting weights smallMaybe, but much more research is needed to either confirm or deny that consuming collagen benefits muscle mass and strength beyond what we know occurs by increasing dietary protein intake. There are a growing number of studies that report benefits to muscle strength, joint pain, and repair of connective tissue, but there are a greater number of studies that report no benefits.  The unsatisfying answer to your question is that we’re going to have to wait and see what future research has to say,

Do you think older adults need to use collagen as a supplement?

Collagen production does naturally decline with age and there are studies that report benefits of collagen consumption in older adults.  Maybe the best news is that there is little to no risk of trying collagen supplements, aside from the possibility of spending money on something that does not work.

There are so many forms of collagen being sold…hydrolyzed, peptides, raw, undenatured and found in various forms from liquids, powders, tablets, chews and even gummies….if someone wanted to take collagen what is the form and dose that is currently recommended?

The current research indicates that the effective dose seems to be 15-20 grams of collagen per day, along with 200-250 mg of vitamin C to aid in collagen synthesis. The body seems to respond best to the presence of collagen peptides—short chains of a few amino acids—and most forms of dietary collagen contain such peptides. Look for products containing hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides on the label.

1800ss_getty_rf_vitamin_cI’m glad that Dr. Bob mentioned vitamin C and its role in collagen production. Vitamin C is most frequently thought of a nutrient that helps our immune system, especially fighting the dreaded winter cold, but it has a fascinating history (well, fascinating to most dietitians!). At the end of the 15th century, a disease called scurvy was the major cause of disability and death of sailors undergoing long sea voyages. Without access to fruits or vegetables, sailors developed bleeding gums, lost their teeth, had poor wound healing, and frequently old wounds would open up (called dehiscence). All because they were deficient in vitamin C and its important role in collagen production. Collagen helps anchor teeth in our gums and jawbone, as well as helping to keep skin healthy and elastic. It wasn’t until the 1930s that a Hungarian scientist, Dr. Albert-Szent-Gyorgyi, discovered and isolated ascorbic acid (a contraction of anti-scorbutic), better known as vitamin C.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Fitness Tips for Getting and Staying Active

In Food & Fitness After 50 co-author and exercise physiologist, Dr. Bob Murray, likes to make the distinction between physical activity and exercise.  He defines the terms this way, “physical activity is body movements that require increased energy expenditure. Exercise is body movements that require increased energy expenditure and are planned, structured, and repeated with the goal of improving fitness.”

Dr. Murray explains that “there is an emotional aspect to these definitions. Some people dislike exercise but are very open to increasing physical activity, such as walking, gardening, bike riding, swimming or golfing.” While we all know that regular exercise or physical activity improves our healthspan, the length of time that we are healthy. Increasing the moments spent being physically active benefits our physical and mental health. “We have a sitting disease in this country. Older adults can spend up to 85% of their waking hours being sedentary. Working in periodic exercise snacks, even 5 minutes every hour, increases physical activity and can lead to health improvements,” says Dr. Bob.

Book Cover 2So, it was timely when I was e-introduced to K. Aleisha Fetters and her recently published book, Fitness Hacks for Over 50  (Simon & Schuster, Inc, 2020). The subtitle of her book is 300 easy ways to incorporate exercise into your life. I interviewed Aleisha to learn about her and how her book can help us to get and stay more physically active.

Tell me about yourself, Aleisha.

I’m a Chicago-based certified strength and conditioning specialist who works with people both in-person and online, and the author of Fitness Hacks for Over 50 and several other books. I came to fitness writing through journalism–I got my undergraduate and master’s degree in journalism and worked primarily in health and science journalism.

I originally pursued certification as a strength and conditioning specialist to be a better journalist in the fitness arena but the more I got into it, the more I wanted to be able to connect with people and work directly with them, not just write about it. I continue to write for many publications including US News & World Report, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, SilverSneakers, AARP, and O, The Oprah Magazine. In addition, I am a personal trainer to people at the gym and through online virtual training.

As you are in your early 30s, what made you interested in writing the book for those over 50?

Aleisha Fetters 2
Author, K. Aleisha Fetters

Vital, healthy aging is important for all us and aging should not be synonymous with loss of function, frailty, or a decrease in quality of life. As a trainer, I enjoy working with those over the age of 50. I find older adults are interested in exercise and movement for intrinsic reasons, whereas younger adults tend to go for looking good. Older adults enjoy the functional health benefits that come from exercise…feeling food, being strong, playing with their grandkids. My older clients are excited when they hit their goals and find they are experiencing less shoulder or back pain or that they can do something in the gym that they once thought was out of reach.

I’m glad to hear you mention functional fitness as that is something we emphasize in our book. Everyone has different functional goals but for me a good life means the strength to walk my big, strong dogs and lift a 50-pound bag of dog food in my shopping cart. 

That speaks to how we are more alike than we are unalike. Afterall, we all need to squat, hinge, push, push, rotate, and carry. We all need to foster strength, balance, mobility, and move in ways that we enjoy and allow us to finish our workouts or daily tasks feeling better than when we started them. We need to stay fit not only for the present but for the future. I, for one, plan to age like a fine wine!

What do you think are the reasons people don’t exercise or engage in physical activity as they age?

iStock-Older couple runningI think the reasons people don’t exercise at 50, 60, 70+ are the same reasons people don’t exercise at 20, 30, 40+. Lack of time, thinking exercise isn’t fun, believing in the “no pain, no gain” idea that exercise hurts, or that exercise is a means to burn calories or fix perceived flaws.

However, as people age, there are some unique challenges. Aches and pains can make exercise seem hard and if an older person hasn’t exercised in the past they might not know why or how to start. Many older adults have chronic health conditions, such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and they don’t know how to find workouts and activities that are right for them and their unique circumstances.

One question I get all the time is what is the “best” exercise I can do? Dr. Bob’s answer to this question is “the one you enjoy doing the most because then you will continue to do it.”

I agree, exercise you enjoy and will help you cultivate a healthier relationship with your body and movement. However, I will add that the deadlift is my definition of a “best” exercise and I’m not talking about being able to lift a massive load. A deadlift is simply picking a dead weight up off the ground–it’s a fundamental movement pattern and strengthens the entire body while focusing on the posterior muscles, which are prone to weaknesses and injury, and have a huge effect on everyday function. It’s the number-one exercise in my book for reducing the risk of lower-back injury! We’ve all heard, “lift with your legs, not your back,” for good reason!

It seems that this book is perfect for exercise instructors, like Silver Sneakers instructors, to give them ideas and creative ways to keep people interested in fitness. Was that one of your goals or was it written for the consumer?

That wasn’t the intention when writing the book, but once it came together, I realized it had that going for it. After all, even the best trainers can benefit from collaboration and what trainer hasn’t wracked his or her brain trying to think of more exercises or active lifestyle tips when training clients? But it really works for the everyday person; training during structured classes and workouts is one thing, but the difference-maker is what people do when they’re not at the gym or taking a class. This book gives a lot of practical solutions for both trainers and the average older adult who want to change things up.

How should people use this book? What type of equipment do you think people should have at home to get and stay fit?

I would encourage people to use it as a movement menu. Every person might not want to perform every exercise in the book, and it was purposefully designed that way. I encourage people to try out different fitness hacks and see what feels good and meets a person’s unique needs.

Within each chapter, the exercises progress upon one another. So, work on mastering a single-leg stand before trying a single-leg sit to stand. There are notes for exercises to illustrate how they can be safely performed and how they build on one another. I would also encourage people to read the full instructions, tips, and recommendations on modifying exercises based on mobility or other unique circumstances.

exercise bandsAs for equipment, most of the exercises can be done with the resistance of your own body weight, simple household items, or resistance bands. Resistance bands are my number-one equipment choice because they are incredibly versatile, space-saving, and inexpensive–and open the possibility of doing a lot of fun exercises.

What are your 3 favorite fitness hacks? 

As I’m answering your questions, I’m doing “Strike a Tree Pose!” The tree pose, usually associated with yoga, is modified in the book using a kitchen countertop for stability. This pose helps both balance and stability. I would say my favorites are:

  • “Do the Deadlift,” for reasons mentioned above.
  • “Do the I, Y, T” for improving upper-back muscles and posture. The I, Y, and T refer to position of the arms, sort of like the movements in the old song, YMCA!
  • “Hollow Your Core” a foundational exercise for core strength.
  • “Pull Apart” using a resistance band to strengthen should and back muscles.

Dr. Bob talks about activity snacks, and Fitness Hacks for Over 50 gives us lots of “snacks” for variety! I’m going to gift this book to my favorite personal trainer….after I learn all 300 hacks!

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Fun with An Air Fryer

It all started at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders. Like a good dietitian, I took stock of what was in my freezer, fridge, and pantry and planned meals around what was on hand. I mentioned to my husband that we had some Wild Alaska Pollock and Wild Caught Cod filets in the freezer. His response? “I wish I could have fried fish. I love fried fish.” I don’t fry foods and when it comes to fish, I prefer grilling. But it made me think of air frying and with one click, the Ninja AF 101 Air Fryer was in my cart and ready to be shipped.

I have no affiliation with Ninja products but after reading some reviews on consumer websites, the product looked good and the price was right. Once it arrived, it was love at first bite. Using the cooking guide that came with the book I found coating almost anything in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs is delicious.

Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies

514G1VUZdAL._SX397_BO1,204,203,200_Then, serendipity! One of my colleagues, Elizabeth Shaw (@ShawSimpleSwaps), posed a question on social media asking about favorite kitchen appliances and I didn’t think twice as I typed in “air fryer.” She had just published a book with, Wendy Jo Peterson (@Just_WendyJo) called, Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2020) and offered to send me a press copy.

So, disclosure, the press copy was free, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the book and the recipes. First, a brief introduction to Wendy Jo and Liz. Wendy Jo is a culinary dietitian, a writer, speaker, and recipe developer. Her clients range from military to musicians and she is known as the “Fuelin’ Roadie” for innovation with recipes. She is the author of numerous books. Liz Shaw is also a registered dietitian and her brand is Shaw Simple Swaps. She is a culinary expert and her mission is getting people to enjoy food and make small changes to reap big rewards. Please visit their websites for amazing recipes and other great food and nutrition information.

Too Many Great Recipes to Choose From!

But, back to the book. The first thing I liked about the recipes is the use of ingredients you are likely to have in your kitchen…important in a pandemic when we are not out shopping in specialty grocery stores and online delivery is hit or miss. You won’t find cold-pressed, double-filtered organic grapeseed oil or any other hard to find (and expensive to buy) ingredient in any of the recipes….thank you Liz and Wendy Jo.

I flipped through the recipes and truly I wanted to try them all, but I settled on one from each section and using ingredients I had in my house. First up was “Crispy Fried Chicken,” and it didn’t disappoint. I had thinly sliced chicken breasts in the freezer, so I cut them into strips for chicken tenders. I found that my 4-quart air fryer cooks a bit faster than the recipe times call for, so some trial to adjust cooking times is in order. I loved how crispy and golden brown the chicken turned out. Each recipe has notes, tips, and suggestion on how to vary it. We made a dipping sauce with honey and mustard, using one of the tips.

fishingOn to that “fried” fish my husband was craving. I got lucky because my brother-in-law hired a fishing guide to take them out on our lake to hook some fresh fish. As you can see in the photo, the trip was a success and we had bass filets ready for the Air Fryer. I tried the recipe, “Lightened Up Breaded-Fish Filets.” It was equally as good as the fresh salmon I had in Alaska last summer. Can’t wait to try it with my frozen filets, too.

AF FD - Tuna Melt 2
Tuna Melt

Next up was another of my husband’s favorite dishes, Eggplant Parmesan, and he declared it excellent, although he suggested we add some gooey, melty fresh mozzarella cheese next time we make it. Last night, for a quick dinner we tried the Tuna Melt and it was grilled to perfection.

Side dishes are a snap in the Air Fryer and there are plenty of recipes for veggies. The Crispy Herb Potatoes beats French Fries any day and I love the chapter on “Ten (or so) No-Recipe Recipes that Make Perfect Sides.” From Brussels Sprout to Zucchini, you can quickly make a tasty side dish to accompany any entrée. I tried the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon this past weekend and I could have eaten the entire dish by myself!

My only “fail” was in the baking section. I tried Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes, but they were dry. Good flavor, but crumbly texture. I know I will need to adjust temperatures and times to fit my Air Fryer when baking.

Tips and Tricks

In addition to the recipes, the authors give loads of tips and tricks for using an Air Fryer. As a newbie to this device, I found helpful information to get the best results from my Air Fryer. For example, they suggest coating the basket with olive oil instead of using popular cooking sprays. Commercial cooking sprays contain chemicals that can corrode the basket, so I ordered an inexpensive mister and filled it with olive oil to keep foods from sticking.

They also recommend using a meat thermometer to insure proper cooking temperatures. I always recommend using a meat thermometer instead of guessing if the food is done. Not only does using a meat thermometer help you avoid under-cooked food, but it also prevents over cooking.

Additional Benefits for Older Adults

As many older adults find themselves empty-nesters, I think an Air Fryer is a perfect appliance for healthy, quick meals for one or two people Using it for delicious veggie sides or dehydrating veggies for chips (I have not tried the dehydration setting yet!), it is easy to use and easy to clean.

Some people describe an Air Fryer as just another convection oven, but I find it easier to use than the convection oven setting. Cooking times in the Air Fryer are faster than the oven and the food comes out crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.

I live in the south where there is an affinity for fried foods. An Air Fryer gives you the taste of fried food without the excess calories and saturated fat. Another plus is that cooking with an Air Fryer keeps the kitchen cool. No one wants to turn on a hot oven or sweat over a greasy frying pan on a summer day in Georgia.

While I am not an RVer, many of my friends are, and in the Air Fryer Cheat Sheet for Dummies the authors suggest it is a great appliance for the RV lifestyle.

If you’ve got an Air Fryer hiding in a closet, dig it out and try some of these great recipes. And, if you are like me and looking to try something new, I recommend an Air Fryer and Liz and Wendy Jo’s cookbook! A big thanks to Wendy Jo and Liz for showing me all the ways to use my favorite new purchase.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Beware of Online Advice to Take Vitamin D or Zinc to Prevent COVID-19

Dietary supplements can help fill nutrient gaps or be used to treat deficiencies but lately I’ve seen lots of headlines implying supplements of vitamin D and zinc can make you immune to COVID-19. In a word? NO.

To top it off, many well-meaning people are touting these nutrients on their social media feeds with messages like, “wash your hands and take loads of vitamin D and zinc,” or “stock up on vitamins and minerals, they are natural so you can’t take too much.” Ouch. Hemlock is a natural poison, so clearly you can take too much of a “natural” substance.

vitaminddiscVitamin D

What do these headlines have in common?

  • Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to more severe cases of COVID-19.
  • New study claims vitamin D deficiency may impact coronavirus mortality rates.
  • Could vitamin D deficiency and coronavirus be connected?
  • New study suggests vitamin D is linked to COVID-19 mortality.
  • Coronavirus: How vitamin D could keep you healthy during the pandemic.

I’ve underlined the key words to give you a clue. These headlines are from the same study. The study found a relationship, not a cause and effect, with vitamin D and the virus. When you see the words or phrases like “appears to play a role,” “may be linked,” “may impact,” “suggests,” “related to,” or “associated with,” it tells you about a relationship between two things. It doesn’t tell you that one thing caused another. Did you know there is a strong relationship between the increase in bottled water consumption and rising rates of obesity in the U.S.? Clearly, it doesn’t mean that bottled water is “causing” obesity.

In addition to the well-recognized role in bone health, Vitamin D is important in immunity. It helps modulate the immune system, making immune cells less inflammatory. Various groups, from the Institute of Medicine (IOM is a nonprofit organization and part of The National Academies that works outside the framework of government to provide evidence-based research and recommendations for public health and science policy) recommends that all adults age 51 to 70 years get 600 IU (equal to 15 micrograms or mcg) a day and those over the age of 70 get 800 IU a day (20 mcg). The Endocrine Society suggests adults need 1000 to 1500 IU to ensure adequate blood levels of the vitamin.

It is hard to get enough vitamin D from food and older adults are at risk for insufficiency because skin doesn’t make vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently with aging. Many adults turn to vitamin D supplements to get the needed vitamin D.

And, we started this post with suggestions that the vitamin plays a role in COVID-19. At this point, it is only speculation, but there are at least nine clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, exploring various aspects on the vitamin on the virus. A rapid review paper from University of Oxford in the UK (click here for the paper), published May 1, found that currently is there is no clinical evidence to support prevention or treatment of COVID-19 with vitamin D

The Bottom Line?

  • If you have had your blood levels of vitamin D measured by your doctor and she or he has recommended a supplement, continue to take the dose as recommended.
  • If you have not had a vitamin D blood test, don’t self-diagnose and start taking vitamin D.
  • If you take a multivitamin/mineral supplement you may be getting the recommended amount or slightly higher for vitamin D; multis formulated for “seniors” often contain 1000 IU of vitamin D. Don’t take any more than the Upper Limit of 4000 IU/day unless prescribed by an MD.
  • Best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish; think salmon, tuna, sardines. We know eating fish is good for our health in many ways, so include a fish meal at least twice a week.

Zinc 

Picture1We have no storage site in the body for zinc, so it is needed in the diet every day. Zinc is better known for its role in inhibiting the common cold virus from sticking and replicating in the nose and throat. It can also stop inflammation that contributes to the symptoms of a cold…runny nose and stuffy head.

There is no research on using zinc for COVID-19.

While there are many zinc preparations in the cold and flu cold aisle of your local drug or grocery store, should you use them? The research results are mixed, of course, they often are, but the latest review from the Cochrane Collaboration (a group that reviews medical topics by reviewing many studies on a particular topic) found that when zinc is taken at the first sign of a cold the length of the illness is reduced by about one day.

When using it for warding off a cold, keep in mind the following:

  • Timing and dose are important, try one zinc lozenge at the first sign of a cold and take it every 4 hours (most have 10 to 15 milligrams of zinc per dose).
  • More isn’t better, in fact, in can make things worse; nausea and vomiting can occur if you take too much and it can leave a metal taste in the mouth.
  • Avoid zinc nasal sprays…the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that zinc sprays can lead to changes in the sense of smell and sometimes permanent changes.
  • Zinc can interfere with some prescription medications, like antibiotics and blood thinners, so always consider potential drug interactions.

The Bottom Line?

  • Zinc is important for a healthy immune system but there is no evidence at this time that it will protect against COVID-19.
  • Too much zinc, which is easy to get in supplement form, can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • The Upper Limit for zinc is 40 milligrams so keep that in mind if you use zinc lozenges.
  • Aim for zinc-rich foods every day. Good choices are seafood (oysters, lobster, crab), beef, pork, poultry, baked beans, and fortified breakfast cereals.

I asked Connie Diekman, registered dietitian, food and nutrition consultant, and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help sum it up:

“With this new virus, much is unknown which makes it more important that we depend on the science related to supplements, rather than opinions posted by a variety of people. The body of evidence related to vitamins and minerals is extensive, while the knowledge behind Covid-19 is evolving. Therefore, as an RD, the best advice I’d give is to focus on a well-balanced eating plan and talk to your MD or RD to determine if you would benefit from supplements – don’t go it alone!”

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Learning New Baking Skills

Bagel 9
Finished product

During my teenage years I loved to bake. I made cake doughnuts (chocolate-frosted were my sibling’s favorite), pies, cakes, and cookies. I rarely bake today, much to my husband’s dismay. One thing I never baked was bread, except for low-protein bread for my dad to help manage his kidney disease. So, during this pandemic when I saw all the amazing breads my friends were baking and posting beautiful photos on Instagram, I wanted to try my hand. For five days I meticulously measured flour and water feeding my homemade sour dough starter. On the fifth day I declared it was ready for the long journey of kneading, resting, shaping, resting, and baking. Smelled good, tasted like a brick.

So, when my niece Samantha came from Madison, Wisconsin to visit her family who were quarantining in  Georgia, she brought her skills as a bagel maker with her….including a whole jar of yeast (a big deal since there is no yeast to be found in our local stores.)

Bagel 1
Mise en place

The only thing missing from her brilliant bagel-making class was the overhead demonstration mirror! She had all the ingredients ready (or mise en place…a French culinary term for “everything in its place”) and had us work in two teams. I asked her why she tried her hand at bagel making and she said she couldn’t find a good bagel in Madison! She has been refining her recipe for the past 3 ½ years and she is sure she will continue to tweak it, but here is her pretty perfect version, with her permission:

Sam’s Bagels

Total Time: About 2 ½ hours

Makes 8 bagels

Dough

1 Tablespoon dry active yeast

4 cups bread flour (bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour)

¾ Tablespoons Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 ½ cups warm water (about 100⁰F)

Water Bath

2 quarts water

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Instructions

Bagel 3
Blooming yeast

In a small bowl add yeast and brown sugar and warm water. Don’t mix; just set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes until the yeast blooms. It will get bubbly as the yeast blooms.

In a large bowl, mix remaining dry dough ingredients (salt and flour). Once yeast has bloomed, mix with dry ingredients and knead until smooth.

Place in clean bowl lined with olive oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Set in draft-free area (we used the unheated oven) for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Bagel 5
The kneading process

Without punching down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place on an oiled baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let set for 30 minutes.

As bagels set, prepare water bath. Mix all ingredients for water bath in a large pot and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 425⁰F.

When the water boils, punch a hole in each bagel using your thumb and shape until smooth. Boil in two batches for 1-2 minutes per side. After removal from water bath, add toppings, if desired.

To add toppings, brush with egg wash (1 whole egg well mixed) and dip bagel tops into a dish of toppings (we used black sesame seeds and cornmeal).

Place on a baking tray and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool and eat…..or, freeze. Without any preservatives, these bagels should be eaten within a day or two. If not eaten right away, freeze in a gallon freezer bag.

The verdict? Easier to make than sour dough bread. And, the taste was chewy like a real bagel should be. We’ll be making these again (once I can find yeast) and trying different toppings, too. Thanks, Sam!

Bagel 4And, it is also nice to have a helper, although he was more interested in guarding his toy than paying attention to us.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Finding the Silver Lining for Active Older Adults During the Pandemic

Food & Fitness After 50 is built on the pillars of eating well, moving well, and being well. So, when Tivity Health, the parent company of of SilverSneakers™, invited me to be a member of their scientific advisory board, I enthusiastically agreed. SilverSneakers embraces the same principles that I hold and while most people think of it as an exercise program, they have an equal emphasis on health, wellness, nutrition and connectivity.

iStock-Older couple runningNow with in-person group exercise classes on pause to stop the spread of COVID-19, how has the change affected SilverSneakers members? Researchers at Tivity Health conducted a number of surveys through the SilverSneakers newsletter on social connections, exercise, and nutrition to understand the concerns of newsletter readers. The survey provides a snapshot of an engaged community and their changing health habits. The infographic shown below (Source: Tivity Health) shows the highligts of the survey conducted between March 26-April 16, 2020. Let’s take a look at how sheltering at home is affecting older adult’s activity, nutrition, and social connections and provide tips on how to make the best of a bad situation…sort of the silver lining for SilverSneakers members.

Being Well and the Power of Social Connection

SilverSneakers Pulse Survey

Let’s start with the loss of social connection. Not surprisingly, ranked as the number one disruptor is the inability to visit with family and friends. I’m sure my SilverSneakers friends miss their coffee corner at our local gym as much as they miss the opportunity to exercise at the facility. The survey also found that limited social interaction contributed to feelings of stress and anxiety.

iStock-Older friends enjoying meal smallSocial support is big part of being well. Research from the Harvard Study of Adult Development found that participants derived their greatest happiness and joy in life from relationships. Men who were socially connected to family, friends, and community were healthier and happier, and they lived longer, than those who had less social connection. Tivity Health’s own research backs up that finding. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology found that membership in SilverSneakers not only increased physical activity but also improved health through decreased social isolation and loneliness.

The Silver Lining? Learning how to stay in touch using video chats, live streaming, or social media sites, such as Facebook Live. About 75% of survey respondents say that using various technology tools to stay in contact with friends and family members has helped bridge the physical distance. And with more use comes more confidence in using technology. Everything from religious services, to virtual bridge clubs, to reading stories to their grandchildren, older adults are embracing video capabilities and becoming more comfortable and proficient. That proves that you can teach new skills at any age.

Moving Well: Staying Active in Creative Ways

A big part of SilverSneakers is exercise, and with fitness facilities temporarily shuttered, how do older adults stay active? Survey results show that 93% of all members are still engaging is some form of exercise. Spring brings people out of doors and many find that they can still walk or bike, even with social distancing. And they recognize that activity of any kind is also exercise; from gardening to completing home projects keeps people moving.

iStock Older man lifting weights smallWhile walking is a wonderful fitness activity, we still need to balance our exercise plate with strength training and the ABCs (agility, balance, and coordination). Keeping muscles strong is always important but even more so now. Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass due to sedentary lifestyle and sarcopenia (which means “vanishing flesh.”) For those who get ill and are confined to bed, a loss of 1% of muscle mass per day compounds the situation. The good news is that strength training just 2 days per week for about 30 minutes per session can reverse muscle loss.

older-adults-tai-chi-outside-e1505160556655Agility, balance, and coordination helps older adults stay active, reduces musculoskeletal injuries, and reduces the risk of falling. While we may never be as agile and coordinated in our body movements at 70 as we were at 20, simple exercises can help improve the ABCs. Yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, balancing on one foot, all can help improve balance.

For those who have replaced their exercise routine with only walking during this time, be sure to start slow when you do return to your pre-COVID-19 workout to avoid injury. In the nutrition world when refeeding a malnourished patient, we use the phrase, “make haste slowly,” and that applies to kick-starting your exercise routine.

The Silver Lining? SilverSneakers offers video home workouts with over 200 videos on demand, so no chance for boredom! There is also the SilverSneakers GO fitness app for smart phones, so workouts are portable. And, with Facebook Live exercise classes offered multiple times per week, activity is possible for these times. Don’t have Facebook but would still love to take part in live classes? Tivity Health recently launched SilverSneakers LIVE, where members can enjoy full-length, live classes and workshops directly through the SilverSneakers website. Create or log in to your account to see the class schedule.

Even without videos, much can be done with exercise bands. I have a set of three bands…light, medium, and heavy resistance that I use for bicep curls, triceps extensions, and shoulder exercises. I hang them on a doorknob as a visual reminder to use them every day.

Eating Well: Get Creative

iStock-Older couple making salad smallSurvey results for nutrition habits show a mixed bag. 56% of respondents report eating more home-cooked meals. Generally, cooking results in healthier meals, so that is a good thing. However, about 25% report making less healthy choices and 30% are eating out of boredom. Comfort foods are definitely “in” right now, but comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy food. This might be the right time to lighten up an old family favorite and there are plenty of recipe sites online to help you make substitutions, not sacrifices. Keep healthy snacks on hand so when boredom has you heading to the kitchen choose a snack of fresh fruit, yogurt, or a handful of nuts.

refrigerator-22592466The bad news is that about 1 in 5 people worry about having enough food or being able to restock their supplies. With disruptions in the food supply chain and home delivery of groceries hit or miss (or delayed) it can be a good time to do an inventory of everything in your freezer, fridge, and pantry and plan creative meals around what you have on hand. (For more on this strategy, click here and here.)

The Silver Lining? Many home delivery meal systems are offering significant discounts for meal and snack delivery. And while you may think of meal delivery such as Nutrisystem* as “diet” food, the meals are healthful and could be used to supplement what you have on hand. This is also a good time to dig out appliances hiding in a closet…a George Foreman grill, an Air Fryer, or Crockpot can be used for easy to prepare meals without a lot of fuss. Crockpot cooking can be  an especially affordable and easy way to r batch prep meals, so you can cook once and eat two or three times.

These unprecedented times have us moving in new directions, but the survey results clearly showed that older adults are resilient. We are strong and creative in finding new ways to eat well, move well, and be well. We might just find that we like those Zoom happy hours with our friends and exercising online!

*Nutrisystem is part of the Tivity Health portfolio of products.

Thanks to Tivity Health researchers Dr. Justin Barclay and Lisa Jameson, and Janna Lacatell, Executive Director of Social Determinants Solutions for Tivity Health for providing information about the SilverSneakers survey.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.