Eating diets high in sugar and fat may not affect health outcomes of older adults

Published on January 16, 2013 at 7:00 AM · No Comments

Eating diets high in sugar and fat may not affect the health outcomes of older adults ages 75 and up, suggesting that placing people of such advanced age on overly restrictive diets to treat their excess weight or other conditions may have little benefit, according to researchers at Penn State and Geisinger Healthcare System.

"Historically people thought of older persons as tiny and frail," said Gordon Jensen, head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, "but that paradigm has changed for many older persons. Currently, 30 percent or more may be overweight, and by 2030, almost 30 percent are projected to be obese, not just overweight. Recent reports even suggest that there may be survival benefits associated with overweight and mild obesity status among the elderly."

"We all know that adverse dietary patterns, such as a Western diet containing high amounts of fat or a diet containing high amounts of refined sugar, both of which may contribute to obesity, are associated with adverse medical conditions and health outcomes for many people, but until now, the health effects of these types of poor diets have not been characterized for people who live to 75 years of age and older," said Pao Ying Hsao, postdoctoral fellow at Penn State.

The team's research is part of a decades-long collaborative study between Penn State and the Geisinger Healthcare System on the effects of nutritional status and diet on the health of more than 20,000 older people living in Pennsylvania. In the current study, the team followed 449 individuals for five years who were on average 76.5 years old at the beginning of the study.

"This is one of the first studies to examine obesity-related health outcomes and dietary patterns in such aged persons," Jensen said.

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