Making softer foods will be key focus for booming over-60s population

By Natalie Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Nutrition

Food texture will become a growing consideration over the next 20 years with an estimated population of more than one billion people over the age of 60, a new paper suggests.

Yet, changing food texture can affect nutrients in foods, Dr Julie Cichero, University of Queensland wrote​ in the Journal of Texture Studies​.

Adding nutrient-dense moistening ingredients like milk, cream or butter and making foods with soft, easily broken fibres should all be key considerations for manufacturers targeting our ageing population.

Dr Cichero noted that swallowing difficulties caused by dry mouth, reduced muscular strength, dental loss and reduced laryngopharyngeal sensitivity can occur as a result of age.

“Taken in combination these factors mean that food textures prescribed to the elderly need to be soft and moist and for fibres to be easily broken,”​ she said, adding the ideal bolus would be moist, cohesive and slippery.

“To improve moisture content, additional nutrient dense products (such as milk, cream or butter) may be required to artificially moisten the bolus.”

However, the aim is not only safety – food appeal and nutritional value is also crucial. Finding a range of ‘swallow safe’ textures to make food appealing, yet palatable and nutrient-dense is key, Dr Cichero added.

“Careful, individualized attention to diet recommendations will result in a diet that is appealing and also provide a variety of textures that are swallow-safe and nutrient dense,”​ she said.

The ideal bolus

The ideal bolus is homogenous in texture, though size and moisture content depends on the kind of food consumed.

Softer foods like banana can be tolerated with larger particle sizes, Dr Cichero said, though hard food stuffs generally need to be chewed until particles are smaller.

Since moisture content needs to be higher for the elderly, some foods are inherently riskier, for instance cereal-based foods which need around 50% moisture​ content to be palatable.

“The final swallow-safe bolus is soft, homogenous in texture, cohesive and slippery enough to allow ease of swallow initiation and swift transport through the pharynx,”​ Dr Cichero said.

A growing field

The latest paper is not the first to stress the importance of texture consideration in foods for the elderly.

In 2012, this news services reported​ that texture modified foods for ageing consumers would be a big R&D challenge.

Data showing​ elderly people with appetite issues often prefer solid foods reinforced the challenge faced.

The same study suggested increased variety of food textures and colours could be the way to stimulate food intake.

One concept for specially adapted food was from German company Biozoon, which developed ‘Smoothfood​’​ – 3D printed to have a softer texture but look like ‘real food’.


Source: Journal of Texture Studies

Published online first, doi: 10.1111/jtxs.12200

“Adjustment of Food Textural Properties for Elderly Patients”

Authors: Dr Julie Cichero

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