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Frail Elderly More Likely to Have 'Food Insufficiency': Study

Update Date: Nov 06, 2012 08:26 AM EST

A national study of the elderly in America reveals that "frail" citizens with limited mobility and low physical activity are more likely to report having a "food insufficiency" when compared to those who are not frail. According to the study which is nationally representative and involved 4700 older citizens, frail elderly are five times more likely to report lack of food than others.

People included in the study were 60 years and above and the data used for the study was from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

"Although little is known about food insufficiency as it relates to frailty, conceivably we thought if food insufficiency is associated with poorer nutritional status, it may also be associated with physical functioning and frailty," lead author Ellen Smit, an epidemiologist at Oregon State University, said.

According to Smit, food insufficiency is a state when someone does not have enough food to eat at times or often.  

A "frail" person is one who has a decreased physical functioning and a significant complication of aging that increases the risk for incident falls, fractures, disability, health care expenditures and premature mortality, Medical Xpress reported.

In the current study, the researchers diagnosed a person as frail when he/she met two of the following criteria: slow walking, muscular weakness, exhaustion and low physical activity.

According to Smit, with more than 20 percent of Americans expected to be older than 65 by 2030, it is important to identify and prevent consequences of frailty in people.

In the current study, about 50 percent of people were identified as being either frail, or "pre-frail". The frail people were older, had lesser education, lower income levels, and were mostly females. They were also more likely to be smokers and less likely to be white, the report said.

"We need to target interventions on promoting availabe either underweight or obese, while at the same time eating fewer calories than people who were nobility and access to nutritious foods among frail older adults," Smit said. "It is also important to improve nutritional status while not necessarily increasing body weight."

Smit added that communities could work together to provide and deliver nutritious meals to older frail adults.

The results are online today in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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