Dietary Habits Among Older Adults

Older Adults Need Guidance to Meet Nutritional Recommendations

Janet A. Foote, Anna R. Giuliano, PhD, Robin B. Harris, PhD

Arizona Cancer Center, (J.A.F., A.R.G., R.B.H.), College of Public Health (A.R.G., R.B.H.), The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona E-mail:

Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the diet of healthy, free-living senior volunteers to the dietary reference intakes (DRIs) and Food Guide Pyramid recommendations.

Methods: This study was a cross-sectional assessment of dietary habits, as measured using a standardized food frequency questionnaire, among 1740 healthy Southwestern U.S. adults, aged 51 to 85 years. Assessment of independently-living volunteers to chemoprevention trials provides an efficient mechanism to profile typical dietary habits among the older adult population.

Results: Daily estimated macronutrient intakes exceeded recommended proportions of protein and fat. In contrast, more than 60% of this senior population reported dietary vitamin D, vitamin E, folate and calcium intakes below estimated average requirements (EAR). Based on the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations, fewer than 10% of the older adults consumed the recommended daily dairy and grain servings. More females than males consumed recommended vegetable (49% versus 40%) and fruit (53% versus 48%) servings (p<0.05). More males consumed recommended grain (11% versus 7%) and protein (78% versus 73%) servings (p<0.05) than females.

Conclusions: Mean micronutrient intakes compared well with DRIs, although fewer than one-half of these older adults consumed recommended levels for vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, and calcium or daily food servings of dairy, grains, vegetables or fruits. Since the beneficial aspects of foods are not limited to essential nutrients, nutrition recommendations to older adults may be improved by emphasizing daily servings of nutrient-dense choices within the Food Pyramid.

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