Penn State, PA – Good news for our wise readers aged 75 or over: You can pretty much eat what you want.
According to a new study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, a sugar-filled, fatty diet won’t make a difference to an over-75. Indeed, if anything, it seems a restrictive diet could worsen the health of senior citizens. Gordon Jensen, head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, explains:
“Historically people thought of older persons as tiny and frail, but that paradigm has changed for many older persons. Currently, 30 percent or more may be overweight, and by 2030, almost 30 percent are projected to be obese, not just overweight.”
Postdoctoral fellow Pao Ying Hsao continues:
“Recent reports suggest that there may be survival benefits associated with overweight and mild obesity status among the elderly. We all know that adverse dietary patterns, such as a Western diet containing high amounts of fat or a diet containing high amounts of refined sugar, both of which may contribute to obesity, are associated with adverse medical conditions and health outcomes for many people, but until now, the health effects of these types of poor diets have not been characterized for people who live to 75 years of age and older.”
The study, which appeared in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging, tracked 449 individuals over five years, with the average age of participants when the study began 76.5 years old. The Penn State research team phoned every participant four or five times during a 10-month period to check on their dietary habits from the previous 24 hours. The researchers then categorized participants into three distinct dietary patterns:
Those adhering to the “health-conscious” pattern ate a lot of pasta, noodles, rice, whole fruit, poultry, nuts, fish, and vegetables, with lower intakes of fried vegetables, processed meats, and soft drinks.
The “Western” pattern was characterized by higher intakes of bread, eggs, fats, fried vegetables, alcohol, and soft drinks, and the lowest intakes of milk and whole fruit.
Finally, the “sweets and dairy” pattern typically contained lots of baked goods, milk, sweetened coffee and tea, and dairy-based desserts, and the lowest intakes of poultry.
After checking outpatient electronic medical records for cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome during the study’s five-year period, the team found no relationship between said illnesses and dietary pattern, though there was a greater risk of hypertension in individuals in the “sweets and dairy” group. Concludes Jensen:
“We don’t know if the participants had been following these dietary patterns their entire adult lives, but we suspect they had been because people don’t usually change dietary practices all that much.
“The results suggest that if you live to be this old, then there may be little to support the use of overly restrictive dietary prescriptions, especially where food intake may already be inadequate. However, people who live on prudent diets all their lives are likely to have better health outcomes.”
In other words, tuck in, over-75s! Kids: you’re still restricted. Sorry about that