Chemical Sensitivity in the Elderly: Lessons Learned from Micronutrient Consumption in the Dutch Elderly Population

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Lya G. Soeteman-Hernández
Eugène H. Jansen
Hans Verhagen
Elly J. M. Buurma-Rethans
Jan van Benthem


A food consumption survey in the Dutch elderly population (51-69 years of age) showed an increased trend in micronutrient supplement intake (36.4%; 120/347 participants). Because data on chemical sensitivity in the elderly is lacking, evaluation as to whether the current uncertainty factor (UF) of 10 is sufficient to protect the elderly was investigated using the micronutrient consumption data in the elderly Dutch population as a case study. Theories of ageing, and differences in toxicokinetic and toxicodynamics are briefly discussed in the context of chemical sensitivity in the elderly. Evidence suggests that for the healthy elderly, no additional default UFs are recommended because the present UF of 10 is probably sufficient. However, more research is needed to ensure that there is no additional risk, particularly in the not-so healthy elderly population. Although there is a trend of increased consumption of micronutrient supplements (i.e. vitamins and minerals) by the Dutch population, the existing European legislation for micronutrients in fortified foods (Regulation 1925/2006) and food supplements (Directive 2002/46) is now being translated to simultaneously set maximum levels of micronutrients in foods and in supplements. For the healthy elderly, no foreseeable risk is expected due to the consumption of micronutrients. For the unhealthy elderly, the effects of micronutrient consumption are not yet known and therefore, dietary supplement intakes need to be continuously monitored with detailed questioning on health status, supplement and prescription drug use. In addition, the generation of an international and up-to-date database on the composition of available dietary supplements is needed to fill the current data gaps.

Elderly, ageing, chemical toxicity, risk assessment, micronutrients.

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How to Cite
Soeteman-Hernández, L. G., H. Jansen, E., Verhagen, H., Buurma-Rethans, E. J. M., & Benthem, J. (2015). Chemical Sensitivity in the Elderly: Lessons Learned from Micronutrient Consumption in the Dutch Elderly Population. European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety, 5(2), 90-100.
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