Older Americans who are “frail”, meaning they have restricted movability and little physical activity, are 5% as likely to suffer from “food insufficiency” compared with non-frail older adults, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The recent trial involved data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of over 4,700 U.S. adults ages 60 and older.

Ellen Smit, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at Oregon State University explained that people develop food insufficiency when they do not eat enough or simply may not have enough food to consume. These individuals also usually are in poor health, have low nutritional values, and poor dietary intake.

She said:

“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.”

In the report, frailty is described as being less capable of functioning physically, this makes these older adults more susceptible to:

  • falls
  • fractures
  • early death
  • disability
  • high health care costs

For the new trial, the researchers characterized individuals as frail when they had any two of the following:

  • weak muscles
  • slow walking ability
  • extreme tiredness
  • poor physical activity levels

According to a 2011 report, prevalence of frailty increases dramatically as people age. The more physically fit a person is, the less chance they have of becoming frail earlier.

Over 20% of the aging population will be above the age of 65 by 2030, according to Smit, and interventions are necessary to lower the prevalence of frailty among these older adults. During the study, close to half of the participants were frail or “pre-fail”, which meant they possessed risk factors of decreased physical capability.

Smit continued:

“We need to target interventions on promoting availability and access to nutritious foods among frail older adults. It is also important to improve nutritional status while not necessarily increasing body weight.”

Individuals who are frail have a hard time getting out of their houses, which makes physical activity difficult. It also makes them have a lack of access to healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits. In order to assist these people, community intervention programs and non-profit corporations could be useful for helping the frail older adults in our communities.

Written by Christine Kearney