Inability to chew properly can cause weakness, frailty in older people

Many older people are so weak that they move slowly, are terribly uncoordinated and often fall and break their bones. A study from France shows that part of this problem can be caused by faulty chewing (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2007).

As almost all people age, they lose muscle tissue and become weaker. Muscles are built from the protein digested from food. The authors measured protein absorption in older people by feeding them radioactive leucine and then measuring the amount in their blood. Half the subjects had normal teeth and half had full dentures. Those who lost all their teeth had far lower absorption of the protein that they ate, absorbing only 30 percent compared to 48 percent for those who had their own teeth. This study shows that the ability to chew food affects nutritional status and may be a major factor in the health of elderly people.

Loss of muscle mass in older people weakens immunity as well. As you age, you lose your ability to kill germs because of lack of muscle. When germs get into your body, you must make white blood cells and proteins called antibodies to kill them. Antibodies and cells are made from protein and the only place that you can store extra protein is in your muscles. When you have large muscles, you have a ready source of protein to make antibodies and cells. When you have small muscles, you have a very limited source of amino acids to make protein, so your immunity may be inadequate to kill germs. More


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