Elderly Americans undernourished - study suggests

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

According to two recent studies, many older Americans are not
getting adequate nourishment from the foods they eat and are at
increased risk of serious health problems requiring
hospitalisation.

According to two recent studies highlighted by the Public Information Committee of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences (ASNS) and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition (ASCN), many older Americans are not getting adequate nourishment from the foods they eat and are at increased risk of serious health problems requiring hospitalisation. In the Journal of Nutrition​, researchers at the University of Iowa reported that inadequate nutrient intakes are common among rural-dwelling older persons, and are associated with lack of variety in the diet. "Participants in our study were the 'oldest old', defined as 80 years of age and older,"​ says lead author Teresa A. Marshall, PhD, RD. "Eighty per cent reported inadequate intakes of folate, vitamin D, and calcium. Available screening tools may not be specific enough to detect problems affecting nutrient intake, such as individual medications or ill-fitting dentures. It is important for older persons to understand that normal aging does not necessitate alterations in the diet."​ According to Dr. Gordon Jensen, lead author of a report on the risk of hospitalisation in rural older Americans, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, "I think that there is a perception that the rural population has a healthier diet because they have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Reality is, however, quite different. Older people living in rural communities are often isolated and do not have the ability or resources to access an adequate food supply. Lack of medical services or interventions to correct nutritional deficiencies may contribute to the problem."​ Indeed, this study suggested that nutritional risk factors like eating problems, weight loss, and consumption of special diets, should be considered in the management of older persons at risk for hospitalisation. "Both of these studies focused on rural older Americans,"​ says Dr. George Blackburn, internationally renowned nutrition expert and representative of the Public Information Committee of the ASNS/ASCN, "but city dwellers are equally at risk of nutritional deficiencies in their elder years, albeit for different reasons."​ Everyone should eat adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals through healthy food choices. Each of these studies identified some individuals who had adequate dietary intakes and others who regularly took dietary supplements to make up the difference. However, about four out of five older Americans lack key nutrients and would likely benefit from dietary counselling and a daily multivitamin.

Related topics: Research

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