Diet may not impact certain health outcomes in elderly

January 22, 2013

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging shows that eating diets high in sugar and fat may not affect the health outcomes of older adults ages 75+.

The 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 researchers followed 449 individuals for five years who were on average 76.5 years old at the beginning of the study. At study baseline, the team assessed the participants’ dietary patterns by calling each of them by telephone four or five times during a 10-month period and asking them about their diets over the previous 24 hrs. The participants were categorized as adhering to one of three different dietary patterns.

  • Sweets & Dairy pattern: Characterized by the largest proportions of energy from baked goods, milk, sweetened coffee and tea, and dairy-based desserts, and the lowest intakes of poultry.
  • Health-Conscious pattern: Characterized by relatively higher intakes of pasta, noodles, rice, whole fruit, poultry, nuts, fish, and vegetables, and lower intakes of fried vegetables, processed meats, and soft drinks.
  • Western pattern: Characterized by higher intakes of bread, eggs, fats, fried vegetables, alcohol, and soft drinks, and the lowest intakes of milk and whole fruit.

Using outpatient electronic medical records, the researchers identified whether the participants developed cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension (high blood pressure), and metabolic syndrome during the five-year period. They found no relationship between dietary pattern and prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or mortality in the participants; however, they did find an increased risk of hypertension in people who followed the sweets and dairy pattern.

Press release