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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Title: Association between dietary quality and mortality in older adults: A review of the epidemiological evidence

item Ford, Dara
item Jensen, Gordon
item Hartman, Terryl
item Wray, Linda
item Smiciklas-wright, Helen

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/1/2013
Publication Date: 5/21/2013
Citation: Ford, D.W., Jensen, G.L., Hartman, T.J., Wray, L., Smiciklas-Wright, H. 2013. Association between dietary quality and mortality in older adults: A review of the epidemiological evidence. Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. 32(2):85-105.

Interpretive Summary: The population is aging world-wide, and with delayed mortality comes an increased burden of chronic diseases. While high quality diets have been found to delay morbidity and mortality in younger adults, research in the oldest segment of the population is not as clear. This literature review examines the association between diet quality and mortality in adults aged 65 and greater. Diet quality was defined in various ways, and results were examined separately for a priori methods which allow for calculation of a single diet quality score and a posteriori methods which use statistical methods to empirically derive dietary patterns from dietary data. The findings from this literature review indicate that while there is some variation in findings based on population and methods used, overall greater diet quality is associated with decreased mortality in adults 65 years and older. Findings consistently showed that diets high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean meats or fish were associated with decreased mortality. These findings can help to inform dietary recommendations for the oldest old.

Technical Abstract: The population is aging worldwide. Delayed mortality is associated with an increased burden of chronic health conditions, many of which have a dietary component. A literature search was conducted to retrieve and review relevant articles considering quality of diets in association with mortality in older adults aged 60 years and older. In the studies we reviewed, diet quality defined using either a priori methods, which characterize dietary patterns based on existing dietary guidelines, or a posteriori methods, which define dietary patterns through statistical methods met review criteria. Sixteen articles met criteria for review. Generally, dietary patterns that demonstrated greater adherence to diets that emphasized whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and legumes and nuts were inversely associated with mortality. However, a priori methods have not yet demonstrated associations between diet and mortality in older adults in the United States. Development of new methods based on regional variations in dietary intake may offer the best approach to assess associations with mortality.

Last Modified: 06/26/2017
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