Healthy plant-based diets may reduce frailty in older people

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Scientists from several universities in Spain found that healthy plant-based diets may reduce the risk of frailty in older people.

Frailty is a multidimensional geriatric syndrome characterized by a decline of physical and cognitive reserves that leads to increased vulnerability.

Frailty increases with age and is associated with falls, longer stays in hospital, difficulty recovering from illness and surgery, and mortality.

Frailty is a syndrome that leads to an increased risk of hospitalization, disability, and death in older people.

The health effect of plant-based diets defined by the quality of their plant foods is unclear.

In the current study, the team aimed to examine the association between two plant-based diet indices and the risk of frailty among older adults in Spain.

They analyzed data from 1880 individuals aged ≥ 60 years from the Spanish Seniors ENRICA-1 cohort.

The researchers used a diet history to build two indices:

The healthful Plant-based Diet Index where healthy plant foods received positive scores, whereas less-healthy plant foods and animal foods received reverse scores;

The unhealthful Plant-based Diet Index, with positive scores for less-healthy plant foods and reverse scores for animal and healthy plant foods.

The team found after 3.3 years of follow-up, 136 frailty cases were confirmed.

Comparing the highest vs. the lowest of adherence, healthy plant-based diets were linked to lower risks of frailty, whereas unhealthy plant-based diets were linked to higher risks of frailty in older people.

Higher consumption of healthy plant foods was associated with reduced frailty risk. Higher consumption of unhealthy plant foods was associated with higher frailty risk.

The team concludes that in older people, healthy plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of frailty, while the opposite was found for unhealthy plant-based diets.

The research was published in Geroscience and conducted by Javier Maroto-Rodriguez et al.

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