Differences in Nutritional Requirements in Relation to Age and Sex

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Dietary management is a part of the Power Performance system – an approach that helps people optimise their performance in life, sports, and business. By appropriately managing their nutrition, high-performance individuals can improve their mental and physical well-being, increase their energy levels, and simply do better in virtually any area of their lives.

General calorie intake and nutritional requirements change as people age. It is important to distinguish the nutrition for one age group from others as dietary requirements will differ. Certain age groups need specific nutrients in specific quantities, therefore attention should be paid to nutritional habits.

Compare nutritional needs of specific groups

Everyone has different nutritional needs due to age, lifestyle, and health. We all need to pay attention to the foods we eat in order to stay healthy. However, certain groups have specific nutritional needs that require extra attention. To compare these nutritional needs of various groups can help us understand what we should be eating on a daily basis.

For example, pregnant women have different nutritional requirements than other adults as they have specific nutrient needs for their growing baby. They often need more vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron and folate than others do in order to ensure a healthy development of the baby. Elderly people may also need extra nutrients due to changes in metabolism and absorption of food as they age. It is important for those 65 years or older to make sure they are getting enough protein, vitamin D and calcium from the foods they are consuming each day.

Carry on reading to compare nutritional needs of specific groups by age and sex.

Nutrition for infants

Infants will preferably require the milk of their mothers as it contains appropriate ratios of fats, protein, carbs and cholesterol and provides the babies with protection against diseases due to the transfer of immunity. An example of that would be lactoferrin, which is “an immune protein with strong anti-microbial function in human milk”(1).

Nutrition for children

Pre-school children will require a lot of energy in comparison to their size as they are very active and grow rapidly. They will require foods that are high in nutrients and protein preferably given as relatively small, but frequent meals. Pureed fruits and vegetables as snacks would be a good choice as they would provide essential micronutrients in form of vitamins and minerals in addition to other meals.

School children (5-12 years) also grow relatively quickly and are typically very active. During this stage of life, they would require a varied diet that is based on the Eatwell Guide, and have at least two portions of fish a week, one of which would be oily. Sweet snack foods should be limited and swapped for yoghurt, milk or sandwiches with lean meat (e.g. turkey breast) or fish (e.g. tuna) and a salad. The same goes for salt intake, where according to British Nutrition Foundation(2):

  • „children aged 4 to 6 years – no more than 3 g a day;
  • children aged 7 to 10 years – no more than 5 g a day;
  • children aged 11 or above – no more than 6 g a day.”

Nutrition for teenagers

Teenagers tend to grow much faster at age 13-18, therefore they require more calcium and vitamin D to support healthy teeth and bone growth. Their caloric requirement also increases. Their meals should also be based around the Eatwell Guide, but their diet would demand significantly more energy than that of a child. A higher intake of fibre is also recommended for gut health as teenagers tend to lean towards fast foods and sweet snacks, thus covering a majority of their caloric requirement from unhealthy foods.

Nutrition for adults

Adults between ages 19 and 50 usually have similar dietary requirements as they do not change within this stage of life. A typical adult’s diet would be based around the Eatwell Guide and would contain 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day, at least 2 portions of fish a week and the base of the diet would be starchy foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, etc. (preferably wholemeal options as they contain more micronutrients and fibre). Their caloric intake would not be as high as that of teenagers and their protein requirements would also drop because the growth spurt has already ended at this stage and bones have completely formed.

Nutrition for seniors

Older adults require significantly fewer calories, but the foods they eat should be more nutrient-dense. As age increases, the basal metabolic rate drops down, but the requirements for micronutrients increase. For instance, the ability to synthesize vitamin D from UV light decreases with age, therefore more of it should be consumed with the diet, preferably as a whole, healthy meal, but could also be supplemented if necessary. Due to cognitive decline, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids grows as they aid the brain in proper functioning. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in nuts and oily fish. Vitamin A consumption should also be increased as it helps to keep the eyes healthy. Vitamin A can be found in carrots and sweet potatoes. Fruits and vegetable intake should be generally increased as they contain fibre (helps to maintain bowel regularity), and antioxidants (help fight reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, cancer, protects cells from damage). Older people also require more vitamin B12 found in meat, fish and dairy, because it aids in erythrocyte production and helps maintain proper brain and nervous system function. Ready-to-eat meals should be avoided as they usually contain a lot of salt, which increases the risk of stroke, because of the blood pressure-raising properties of sodium.

Nutrition for men and women

Men and women also differ in nutritional needs in terms of caloric intake, macronutrients and micronutrient requirements. On average a typical man needs around 19-21 kcal per pound of body weight, while a typical woman needs 17-19 calories per pound of body weight(3).

That means that a woman weighing the same as a man of her age would typically require fewer calories to maintain healthy body function. When it comes to carbohydrates men usually require more of them as they require more energy, plus they tend to utilise carbohydrates as fuel better (they can burn more), whereas women deal better with fat. Protein intake in men should also be higher due to larger muscle mass. While calcium requirements for men and women are similar, iron requirements are different. Women require more than 2x iron than men (18 vs 8mg daily respectively) to make up for the losses during menstruation.


  1. Wikipedia, Human Milk Immunity, accessed on 07/05/21, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_milk_immunity
  2. British Nutrition Foundation, Nutrition through life – School Children, p.2, accessed on 07/05/21, available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/life/school-children.html
  3. Nesta, How Men’s And Women’s Nutrition Needs Differ, accessed on 07/05/21, available at: https://www.nestacertified.com/how-mens-and-womens-nutrition-needs-differ/

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