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Data | The Elderly Food and Nutrition in China

In China, a country with over 200 million elderly people aged 60+, prepackaged foods intended for the elderly is still an under-developed segment. The national standard for elderly food and nutrition was opened to public feedback in 2018 and is awaiting finalization. The National Nutrition Plan (2017-2030)[1] aims to improve the nutritional status of older persons. Part of the plan calls for production of healthier foods that meet the demands of the elderly, especially fortified foods, low-salt and low-fat foods.

High Prevalence of Chronic Illness Amongst China’s Senescent Population

According to the 6th China census, the number of Chinese residents aged over 60 was 178 million, accounting for 13.3% of the Chinese population. There was 119 million aged over 65 accounting for 8.9% of the population. At the end of 2014, the population of older persons aged over 60 reached 210 million, accounting for a whopping 22% of the world’s population of elderly people.
Despite the improved living quality and access to more diversified diets, malnutrition is a big problem for older persons. The so called “tea and toast” diet of the elderly is a major contributor to numerous dietary deficiency diseases including anemia, dementia, osteomalacia etc. According to Nutrition and Health Report of the Elderly in China, 48.4% of older persons suffered from malnutrition[2]; Looking more closely, you’ll find up to 80%~90% older persons did not consume enough micronutrients such as calcium, zinc, vitamins and more than half of those surveyed consumed inadequate dietary protein. Zhang Jian, a researcher at National Institute for Nutrition and Health affiliated to Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that among patients suffering from dysphagia in China, 40.3% also suffer have comorbid conditions related to malnutrition and 38.6% have a high risk of malnutrition.

Proper diet and a healthy life go hand in hand, especially for older adults over the age of 65. According to reports by World Health Organization (WHO), a majority of the diseases that older people suffer are due dietary inadequacy.[3] In China, 12.6% of older persons aged above 60 suffered from anemia (both microcytic due to iron deficiency anemia and macrocytic due to b12 deficiency). Amongst those over 75 years of age the prevalence of anemia jumps to 17%.

According to Zhang “Chinese older persons consume a great deal of functional health foods due to their health anxiety and to alleviate illness”. Nearly half of residents aged above 60 suffer from high blood pressure and 20%~30% of them live with diabetes. Yet quite often they prefer consuming health food instead of listening to the dietary advice of their doctors.

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Anne Peng
Food Consultant at Reach24H Consulting Group
Expertise in Chinese food regulations and import issues and with insights into the market, especially in those sectors: dairy products, baby foods, beverages, health and nutrition foods.
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