Regularly consuming fibre and dietary antioxidants may prevent older adults from becoming frail
Research findings from the Harvard Medical School indicate that regularly consuming a diet of pro-inflammatory foods (e.g., refined carbohydrates, saturated fats) is associated with increased risk of developing frailty in middle-aged and older adults.
What is frailty?
Entering middle-age with better muscle strength is thought to be protective against disability and frailty later in life. In older adults, declines in muscle strength and function can impact daily activities such as getting up from a chair, walking quickly across the street and lifting a grocery bag. Sarcopenia also predisposes older adults to falls and bone fractures, hospitalization and early death.
Frailty affects between 10-15 percent of community-living older adults – making it a significant public health issue.
Previous studies have linked specific nutrients with frailty or physical function but did not capture an individual’s entire diet and its impact on frailty over time.
To address this gap, the researchers calculated participants’ dietary inflammatory index (DII) score, which reflects the overall inflammatory potential of one’s diet. They then looked at the role of diet-associated inflammation on the likelihood of developing frailty.
Among the 1,701 relatively healthy participants from the Framingham Heart Study, a pro-inflammatory diet score was tied to an increased risk of frailty over a 12-year period. A one-point higher DII score (on a roughly 16-point scale) was associated with 16 percent higher odds of developing frailty over 12 years.
Participants who consumed the most pro-inflammatory diet were more than twice as likely to develop frailty compared to those who ate the most anti-inflammatory diet.
The study indicated that regularly eating foods that contain nutrients such as fibre and antioxidants (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin E and flavonoids) may prevent older adults from becoming frail.
While more studies are necessary, guidelines based on an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce the percentage of older adults who may develop frailty and related conditions such as falls and fractures, which can improve their quality of life.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 24, 2021.
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