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Medical ArticlesFelon - Whitlow
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Diet For Middle Age And The Aged
Source: Papers On Health
In advancing years when less
exercise is, as a rule, taken, a restriction in the amount of food
consumed is highly desirable. The increasing corpulence, which often
begins to show itself from 30 to 40, is far from being a healthy sign;
indeed, is often the premonitory symptom of serious disease. It should
be remembered that a lessening quantity of food is required from middle
life on. This applies to all the elements of food. It is noticeable
that a fat person seldom lives to old age, most octogenarians being
thin and wiry, and almost all attribute their long life to increasing
watchfulness over their health, and largely over what they eat.
When a person is young and taking active exercise, a good deal of
surplus food can be worked off, and if the excess be too great, a
bilious attack tends to prevent any more being taken, for a time at
But as we get on in life, the surplus food, if much is eaten, is
deposited in various parts of the body as fatty or gouty accumulations.
The liver becomes deranged, and loss of health and strength are at once
It is then, as Sir Henry Thompson has well pointed out, that the fond
but foolish wife often does her husband incalculable harm by her
efforts to "keep up his system." She urges and tempts him to take more
food, fetching him, between meals, cups of beef-tea, soup, or cocoa,
when he really would be greatly the better of total abstinence from all
food for several days. What we have said about appetite being the best
guide applies to the old especially, and if they could but realize what
a very small quantity of food is necessary, they would not be perturbed
to find that their appetite guided them to eat very much less than at a
Milk, which is the ideal food for the very young, is for that reason
often undesirable for the old, and it is a great mistake for such to
drink much of it with solid food.
Diet for the very aged becomes mainly a question of invalid diet, and
it must be remembered that much should be granted to the individual's
choice and liking. All foods for the aged should be light and easily
digested, and careful attention paid to proper cooking.
A striking example of lost health recovered and life and activity
prolonged to a great age, by strict temperance in food, is Cornaro, a
Venetian nobleman of the sixteenth century, who lived over 100 years.
He says:--"Our kind mother Nature, in order that old men may live to
still greater age, has contrived matters so that they should be able to
subsist on little, as I do, for large quantities of food cannot be
digested by old and feeble stomachs. By always eating little, the
stomach, not being much burdened, need not wait long to have an
appetite. It is for this reason that dry bread relishes so well with
me.... When one arrives at old age, he ought to divide that food of
which he was accustomed to make but two meals into four, and as in his
youth he made but two collations in a day, he should in his old age
make four, provided he lessen the quantity as his years increase. And
this is what I do, agreeably to my own experience; therefore my
spirits, not oppressed by much food, but barely kept up, are always
brisk, especially after eating, nor do I ever find myself the worse for
writing immediately after meals, nor is my understanding ever clearer,
or am I apt to be drowsy, the food I take being in too small a quantity
to send up fumes to the brain. Oh, how advantageous it is for an old
man to eat but little! Accordingly, I, who know it, eat but just enough
to keep body and soul together."
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