Veg, fruit and combating frailty
‘Eat your veg to grow up big and strong’ my Gran would always say! And it seems she was onto a good thing.
Whilst vegetables and fruit are great for kids, it seems the older generations reap significant benefit too. Eating a heap of veg and fruit is particularly good for combating frailty, according to recent research.
Better diet quality is related to decreased frailty in older adults, and this may be related to the anti-inflammatory nature of consuming high amounts of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and fish, and less heavily refined and processed oils, sugars, meats and grains, similar to that of a good quality Mediterranean diet.1
However, a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sought to answer if there is a dose-response relationship between protection against frailty, and vegetable and fruit consumption.2
Data was collated from 3 different older-person community cohorts throughout Europe, assessing dietary intake and incident frailty scores for 2,926 individuals collectively.
Over 2.5 years, 300 cases of incident frailty occurred. And there was a major difference between veg and fruit eaters and those that shy away from green beans and bananas.
What the researchers found was vegetable and fruit intake provided a significant dose-dependent protection against frailty in the short-term, even in older adults, at minimum 2 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit per day. Wonderful!
Additionally, it was also found that increased fruit intake was associated with reduced risk of exhaustion, low physical activity, and slow walking speed, as well as higher vegetable intake associated with decreased risk of exhaustion and unintentional weight loss.
And physical activity is as critical as diet for moving into older age fighting fit.
Diet and exercise
Enjoying some form of exercise into older age is important. One doesn’t need to slow down as one ages!
Keeping active is thought to decrease the risk of cognitive decline, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and protect joints and bones among other benefits.3;4 Importantly, maintaining mobility can mean maintaining independence.
Lower veg and fruit consumption in middle age has been associated with slower walking speed and increased frailty in older age.5 This could be because those who eat better tend to exercise more, or nutrients, like antioxidants, supplied in a diet high in veg and fruit enable better body function and protection.
Any which way, walking and exercise increases blood flow, encourages muscle mass, and supports bone health.
And if you needed an extra reason to boost intake, there is research to suggest an association between higher veg and fruit consumption and reduced risk of muscle wasting too!6
So, it seems eating an abundance of vegetables and fruit is good for the bones and muscles, as well as being associated with a raft of other benefits!
Time to pile the plate with carrots, apples and greens, and get moving!
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- Bollwein, J, Diekmann, R, Kaiser, MJ, Bauer, JM, Uter, W, Sieber, CC, & Volkert, D 2013, ‘Dietary quality is related to frailty in community-dwelling older adults’, The Journals Of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences And Medical Sciences, vol. 68, no. 4, pp. 483-489.
- García-Esquinas, E, Rahi, B, Peres, K, Colpo, M, Dartigues, J, Bandinelli, S, Feart, C, & Rodríguez-Artalejo, F 2016, ‘Consumption of fruit and vegetables and risk of frailty: a dose-response analysis of 3 prospective cohorts of community-dwelling older adults’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 104, no. 1, pp. 132-142.
- Better Health Channel 2012, ‘Physical activity for seniors’, The State Government of Victoria, viewed 17 August 2016, <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-for-seniors>
- National Institutes of Health 2015, ‘Exercise: Benefits of exercise,’ S. Department of Health and Human Services, viewed 17 August 2016, <https://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/healthbenefits/01.html>
- Sabia, S, Elbaz, A, Rouveau, N, Brunner, EJ, Kivimaki, M, & Singh-Manoux, A 2014, ‘Cumulative Associations Between Midlife Health Behaviors and Physical Functioning in Early Old Age: A 17-Year Prospective Cohort Study’, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, vol. 62, no. 10, pp. 1860-1868.
- Kim, J, Lee, Y, Kye, S, Chung, Y, & Kim, K 2015, ‘Association of vegetables and fruits consumption with sarcopenia in older adults: the Fourth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey’, Age And Ageing, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 96-102.