Nutritional Status of Adults in the United States
As the number of older adults in the United States grows, the demands on the food system will change. The U.S. Bureau of the Census projects that by the year 2050, the population will grow by another 110 million people to 392 million (2010). The median age has increased from 34.0 in 1994 to 37.2 in 2010. It is projected to peak at 39.1 in 2035. The older population, 65 and older is projected to increase from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 20.7 percent in 2050. The age group that is growing the fastest is age 85 and older. Racial minority groups, African American, Indian/Alaskan Native, and Asian/Pacific Islanders are expected to increase to 27.9 percent, while Hispanics will increase to 24.4 percent and the proportion of Whites will decrease to 50.1 percent. With the growing number of older adults making up the population, it is believed that they will be more health conscious and may have a variety of health problems related to diet.
This is not the first time the U.S. has faced problems with the health of the nation. In 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act. This legislation came in response to claims that many American men were rejected for military service due to diet related health issues. School lunch was established as “a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food (Gunderson, 2013).”
The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that health conditions associated with the ageing process are arthritis, stroke, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. These health concerns can be avoided or treated by diet. Since the 1980’s, the weight of the nation has been a concern, due to rising weights and BMI’s resulting in an increased number of obese Americans.
As the population ages, decision makers need to be informed about dietary health needs and consumption patterns of the ageing and in particular the dietary well-being of lower income elderly. The U.S. government has implemented food assistance programs over the past decades that can benefit the elderly, primarily Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); otherwise known as the Food Stamp Program, and the Elderly Nutrition Program (ENP). The role of these programs is to be a safety net, combined with the changes in the health care system, as a nation strides are being made to be more effective in meeting the health and nutritional needs of the elderly.
Taking a look back at history may explain some of the reasons for the weight gain. Of course, weight gain is a result of consuming more calories than those expended. According to Cutler, Glaeser and Shapiro (2003) in the 1960’s the average adult male weighed 168 pounds and at the time of the study the average male weighed 180 pounds. So where are these calories coming from? The...