Healthy Diet Reduces Age-Related Chronic Diseases

Dietary resilience may reduce healthcare utilization among aging adults.

Findings from a new study suggest that a healthier diet can promote healthy aging, and may even prevent the financial and societal consequences of the aging Baby Boomer population.

There will be approximately 392 million persons aged 80 and older by 2050, which is 3 times the number of individuals in this age range in 2013. To prevent these aging individuals from utilizing avoidable healthcare services, a proper diet should be put in place, according to a study published by Advances in Nutrition.

A large proportion of these aging patients will be susceptible to nutritional frailty, which is characterized by sudden loss of weight, muscle, and strength, according to the study . These patients are also vulnerable to a loss of physiologic reserves, and can lead to disability.

The number of elderly adults with obesity is increasing, which also leaves them vulnerable to sarcopenia, cognitive decline, and infectious disease resulting from nutritional frailty. These factors can all lead to significant increases in healthcare utilization and costs.

In the study, the researchers assessed if dietary resilience can decrease susceptibility to these conditions. Dietary resilience is a model that describes material, physical, psychological, and social factors that influence food purchase, preparation, and consumption, according to the study.

A better understanding of this concept is expected to provide more insight into older adults’ approaches to meal quality and experiences.

A recent model has even added randomized clinical trials that include older adults with diseases and their medications. These clinical trials would identify nutritional needs, biomarkers that show the impact of aging on protein, skeletal muscle, and re-evaluation of body mass index, according to the study.

"A nutritional assessment model that takes into consideration the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss and nutrient absorption is crucial to overall wellness in our elderly population," said researcher Gilles Bergeron, PhD. "However, nutrition recommendations are usually based on that of a typical healthy adult, and fail to consider the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss, and nutrient absorption and utilization."

By not taking into account aging individuals, dietary recommendations may not address the specific needs for this population. This could lead to costly adverse events if this population is deficient in a certain area that is critical for healthy aging.

A healthier diet may reduce the financial burden on the healthcare system, as well as the burden on family members or aging adults.

"Much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prioritizing research that will fill the knowledge gaps and provide the kind of data needed by health and nutrition experts if we're going to address this problem," said researcher Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD. "There also needs to be more education about on-going nutritional needs for those involved with elder-care -- not only in a clinical setting, but also for family members who are responsible for aging adults."