A national study of older Americans shows those who have limited mobility and low physical activity - scientifically categorized as "frail" - are five times more likely to report that they often don't have enough to eat, defined as "food insufficiency," than older adults who were not frail.
The nationally representative study of more than 4,700 adults older than age 60 in the United States uses data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results are online today in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Lead author Ellen Smit, an epidemiologist at Oregon State University, said food insufficiency occurs when people report that they sometimes or often do not have enough food to eat. Food-insufficient older adults have been shown to have poor dietary intake, nutritional status and health status.
"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," she said.
Frailty is a state of decreased physical functioning and a significant complication of aging that increases the risk for incident falls, fractures, disability, health care expenditures, and premature mortality. People in this study are diagnosed as frail when they meet two of the following criteria: slow walking, muscular weakness, exhaustion and low physical activity.