Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 16, 2009
Publication Date: June 16, 2009
Citation: Bowman, S.A. 2009. Socioeconomic characteristics, dietary and lifestyle patterns, and health and weight status of older adults in NHANES 1999-2002: A comparison of Caucasians and African Americans. Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly. 28(1):30-46. Interpretive Summary: Currently, older adults represent about 12 percent of the total U.S. population. And the number of older adults is expected to continue to increase from 35 million to 71.5 million in 2030, representing about 20 percent of the total population. Therefore, nutritional status and well being of this age group will be of importance to their families, health care providers, and policy makers. The study compared the socio-economic, nutrition, and weight status of Caucasian and African American adults, ages 65 years and over, in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002. More African Americans than Caucasians lived in low-income households, had less than high school education, were divorced, and rented their homes. Marital status influences economic status. And economic status influences food choices, nutrition, and health. A substantial percentage of African Americans lived in households that were food insecure. The African Americans ate about 300 calories less energy and ate less of nutritious foods such as vegetables and milk. They drank more of sweetened, less nutritious beverages such as soda and fruit drinks. In general, older adults’ intakes of dietary fiber and essential micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium were far below the dietary recommendations. More African American women, than Caucasian women, were overweight. Efforts to increase food security among low-income older adults and to increase intakes of nutritious foods such as whole grain, vegetables, legumes, and fruit intakes are necessary.
Technical Abstract: The study compared the socio-economic, nutrition, and weight status of Caucasian (n=1,398) and African American (n=354) adults, ages 65 years and over, in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002. Fewer Caucasians (21%) than African Americans (40%) lived in low-income households. A third of African Americans rented their homes. About 10 percent of African Americans households were food insecure. African Americans consumed about 300 calories less energy than Caucasians. They also had low intakes of many micronutrients. Fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium intakes of both groups were much lower than the dietary recommendations. Vegetable and milk product intakes of African Americans were low. Grain group was the highest energy provider for both groups. Total beverages group was the third highest energy source in the African Americans’ diets. African Americans drank more non-diet soft drinks (138g vs. 100g) and fruit drinks (107g vs. 45g) than the Caucasians. These beverages, being high in added sugar, were sources of energy but were low in essential micronutrients. The African American women had a higher mean BMI than the Caucasian women. However, the mean BMI of Caucasian women was also in the overweight range. Moreover, about three-fourths of African American women and more than half of the Caucasian women were overweight. No significant differences were seen between the males in the two groups in their mean BMI or in the percent overweight. This study shows a need for increasing the economic well-being and food security among older African Americans. Because of the low fiber and calcium, magnesium, potassium intakes of older adults, clinicians working with older adults should encourage them to increase whole grain, legumes, vegetables, and fruit intakes. The study findings are useful to policy makers and health and nutrition educators.