Undernutrition a culprit for reduced physical function, disability in older adults
Older adults who are undernourished are likely to have poorer physical function and disability compared with their peers who have normal nutrition, a study has found.
The analysis used baseline and 1-year follow-up data from 593 community-dwelling older adults obtained from the Population Health Index survey in Singapore. Researchers used the Mini Nutritional Assessment to evaluate nutritional status and the Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument to measure physical function and disability.
Of the participants, 82 (including four malnourished and 78 at risk of malnutrition; 13.9 percent) were undernourished at baseline. Relative to those with normal nutrition, those with undernutrition were older (p<0.001) and more likely to report money insufficiency for basic daily needs (p<0.05). The number of older adults who were undernourished increased at the 1-year follow-up: five were malnourished and 88 were at risk of malnutrition.
Multivariable linear regression revealed that in comparison with older adults who had normal nutritional status at both baseline and 1-year follow-up, those who became undernourished or remained undernourished had poorer physical function (B, –6.36 and –5.96, respectively; p<0.01) and were less frequently involved (B, –3.95 and –2.84, respectively; p<0.01) and more limited in performing life tasks (B, –13.24 and –16.02, respectively; p<0.01) at follow-up.
Meanwhile, older adults with improved nutritional status at follow-up had similar physical function and frequency of involvement in life tasks as those with normal nutrition.
The findings point to the potential of improving nutritional status as an effective strategy to improve physical function in older adults, according to the researchers.