An area of new research interest is to develop satiety, the sense of having eaten enough. This is helpful when trying to lose weight, since feeling hungry is one of the main limitations to managing to eat less than your body is telling you you need—running a “calorie deficit”. Different foods send different signals to the brain. It’s easy to eat a tub of ice cream, for example, because fat doesn’t trigger signals in the brain for us to stop eating. On the other hand, foods high in protein, water or fibre content are able to make us feel fuller for longer. Working with the food industry provides an opportunity to shape the future of meals and snacks in beneficial ways.

Fourth decade, 30-40

Adult working life brings other challenges: not just a rumbling stomach, but also the effects of stress, which has been shown to prompt changes in appetite and eating habits in 80% of the population, equally divided between those that gorge and those that lose their appetite. The different coping strategies are intriguing: the phenomena of “food addiction”—an irresistible urge to consume specific, often high-calorie foods—is not well understood. Many researchers even question its existence. Other personality traits such as perfectionism and conscientiousness may also play a role in mediating stress and eating behavior.

Structuring the work environment to reduce problematic eating patterns such as snacking or vending machines is a challenge. Employers should strive to subsidize and promote healthier eating for a productive and healthy workforce—particularly ways of managing stress and stressful situations.

Fifth decade, 40-50

We are creatures of habit, often unwilling to change our preferences even when we know it is good for us. The word diet comes from the Greek word diaita meaning “way of life, mode of living”, yet we want to eat what we want without changing our lifestyle, and still have a healthy body and mind.

There is much evidence to show that diet is a major contributing factor to ill-health. The World Health Organization highlights smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and problem drinking as the main lifestyle impacts on health and mortality. It is in these years that adults should change their behavior as their health dictates, but symptoms of illness are often invisible—for example high blood pressure or cholesterol—and so many fail to act.

Sixth decade, 50-60

The gradual loss of muscle mass, at between 0.5–1% per year after the age of 50, begins and continues a steady course into old age. This is called sarcopenia, and lessened physical activity, consuming less than protein requirements, and menopause in women will accelerate the decline in muscle mass. A healthy, varied diet and physical activity are important to reduce the effects of ageing, and an ageing population’s need for palatable, cost-effective, higher-protein foods is not being met. Protein‐rich snack foods might represent an ideal opportunity to increase total protein intake in older adults, but there are currently few products designed to meet the requirements and preferences of older adults.

Elderly women eat ice-cream at Tokyo's Sugamo district, an area popular among Japanese elderly, in Tokyo
Old age often comes with poor appetite and lack of hunger.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato

Seventh decade, 60-70, and beyond

A major challenge today in the face of increasing life expectancy is to maintain quality of life, or else we will become a society of very old and infirm or disabled people. Adequate nutrition is important, as old age brings poor appetite and lack of hunger, which leads to unintentional weight loss and greater frailty. Reduced appetite can also result from illness, for example the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Food is a social experience, and changing factors such as poverty, loss of a partner or family, and eating alone affect the sense of pleasure taken from eating. Other affects of old age, such as swallowing problems, dental issues, reduced taste and smell (“sans teeth … sans taste”) also interferes with the desire to eat and the rewards from doing so.

We should remember that throughout life our food is not just fuel, but a social and cultural experience to be enjoyed. We are all experts in food—we do it every day. So we should strive to treat every opportunity to eat as an opportunity to enjoy our food and to enjoy the positive effects eating the right foods have on our health.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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