Food insufficiency linked to frailty
An NIH-funded study shows a link between being frail and food insufficiency.
Balintfy: NIH-funded researchers using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey have found what appears to be a link between not getting enough food and being frail. Dr. Ellen Smit at Oregon State University explains.
Smit: What we found in the study is that people who are frail are more likely to also have food insufficiency or more likely donít often have enough to eat than people who are not frail.
Balintfy: She defines frail as when a person experiences muscle weakness, exhaustion or can only manage low physical activity.
Smit: And then for food insufficiency, itís when they often donít have enough to eat.
Balintfy: Dr. Smit also explains that this is an epidemiologic study looking at the health of a large population and cannot show a causal relationship between frailty and food insufficiency.
Smit: I cannot determine causality because it's a cross-sectional study so everything is itís like a snapshot at one point time. So I can only say that these two seem to be associated. So I do not know if frailty came first or if food insufficiency came first.
Balintfy: But researchers do stress the study points to some important facts.
Smit: We noticed in this study that close to 50% of the population is either in the pre-stages of becoming frail or frail and with the aging population, that can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for the aging population. And as a result, if people who are frail arenít able to move around and arenít able to get to the stores then to me that seems to indicate that we need to provide access to nutrition, to good nutritious food as well as try and prevent prefrailty from becoming frail and people who are not frail from becoming prefrail and perhaps some kind of an intervention through exercise as well as nutrition.
Balintfy: Dr. Smit also points to a surprising finding contrary to the expectation that frail people would look underweight.
Smit: What this study found is that in fact a frail person may look underweight but they may also look obese.
Balintfy: For more information on this study, visit www.oregonstate.edu . To hear more from Dr. Smit on this topic, listen to episode 173 of the NIH Research Radio podcast. And to learn more about health and medical research for older adults, visit www.nia.nih.gov. For NIH Radio, this is Joe Balintfy Ė NIH Turning Discovery Into Health®.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. Ellen Smit
Topic: frail, frailty, prefrail, food, food insufficiency, eat, aging, aging population, underweight, obese