The study was conducted by the Kyung Hee University Graduate School of East-West Medical Science in collaboration with the Food Industry Promotional Agency of Korea, focusing on 180 seniors with a mean age of 82.7 years.
According to the study authors, long-term consumption of foods designated for the elderly – a category established by South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) in 2017 – resulted in marked improvement in terms of various quality of life areas such as frailty, nutrition and malnutrition.
“154 adults were observed in the intervention group on the elderly diet and 26 in the group on the general diet, and for the former, improvements were observed in various parameters including energy, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium intake,they declared.
“Even after the passage of time, the improvement effects differed significantly between groups [so we can conclude that the provision of foods] corresponding to the physiological needs of the elderly has a great impact on improving their quality of life, and such special consideration is a reasonable way to [benefit] a super-aged society”.
MAFRA responded with the expected exuberance to this update, highlighting that currently a total of 113 products from around 25 companies – including the domestic brands of industry giants Hyundai Green Food, Shinsegae Food and Pulmuone among others – have already been designated as food for the elderly.
“By 2025, Korea is expected to become a super aging society with more than 20% of our population aged 65 and over,”Yang Joo-pil, food industry policy manager at MAFRA, said in a formal statement.
“As such, this is an important time for the food industry to respond to this need and we expect more and more food brands to enter this market.
“[This study] empirically shows that senior-friendly food designation system, based on parameters such as product hardness, viscosity, nutritional content and others, is a viable and excellent strategy to adopt.
Based on the study results, a major key improvement highlighted was a decrease in overall malnutrition rates from 11.7% to 6.5%, contributing to the improvement in overall health status such as a significant decrease in blood glucose, cholesterol total and triglycerides.
“There are three types of logos issued for products that have been designated as senior food,” MAFRA added.
“A Stage 1 classification means that food is ingestible by older adults who still have teeth, Stage 2 is for those who must depend on gums, and Stage 3 is for those who do not have the former and must depend only on the tongue.” .
South Korea’s aging population
The study also highlighted that South Korea surpassed other nations to emerge first in the world in terms of aging rate, due to Korean women having a life expectancy of 86.6 years.
What is more concerning is the fact that single-person households are extremely common in the country, even when it comes to the elderly, but many of these have chronic diseases such as hypertension or dyslipidemia, further requiring the development of specialized foods for this demographic.
“Special meals for the elderly are absolutely necessary and must be adopted according to the circumstances of each country”,the authors said.
“Improving various health conditions when using foods suitable for seniors also leads to reduced medical costs – For example, decreasing blood sugar will result in savings of KRW 610,000 (US$468.42) per person per year and 706 8 billion KRW (US$542.8 million)) for seniors aged 65 and over according to our report.
Study: Nutritional status and improvement in frailty through an age-appropriate diet among community-dwelling older adults in South Korea
Authors: Shin H., et. to the.