Good Nutrition May Help Prevent Disability in the Elderly

elderlyDecember 4, 2006 — Nutritional status is a key factor to help prevent or delay disability in elderly patients, according to the results of a longitudinal study reported in the November 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Although there is consensus that poor nutritional status is a potential factor, there is a lack of studies investigating its role in the development and course of disability," write Benedetta Bartali, RD, of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and colleagues. "Our previous studies and other reports suggest an association of poor nutritional status with reduced physical function and disability. Most of these findings, however, are cross-sectional, and a causal role cannot be established."

From 1992 to 1995, the investigators prospectively assessed 643 community-dwelling women aged 65 years or older who were enrolled in the Women's Health and Aging Study I. The primary outcome was incidence rates of disability in activities of daily living (ADLs) during 3 years of follow-up. Incidence rates in the lowest quartile of B6, B12, and selenium consumption were compared with those in the upper quartiles.

In direct comparisons, women in the upper 3 quartiles vs women in the lowest quartile of serum concentrations of vitamin B6 (hazard ratio [HR], 1.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03 - 1.67), vitamin B12 (HR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.12 - 1.74), and selenium (HR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.12 - 1.71) had significantly higher risk for disability in ADLs during the 3-year follow-up.

Study limitations are that participants already had some level of difficulty in physical function, and this might have exacerbated the risk for undernutrition. Also, information on ADL disability was self-reported, and there was possible misclassification bias and possible unmeasured confounders.

"Low serum concentrations of vitamins B6 and B12 and selenium predict subsequent disability in ADLs in older women living in the community," the authors write. "Nutritional status is one of the key factors to be considered in the development of strategies aimed at preventing or delaying the disablement process."

The National Institute on Aging funded this study. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

source - Medscape