Snacking may improve physical function among older Americans

Abstract

Background/Objectives

Snacking was reported to provide nutritional benefits among older adults, but the association between such dietary behavior and health outcomes has not been clearly established. The purpose of this study is to examine the associations between snacking and gait speed, a performance-based measure of physical function.

Design

Cross-sectional population-based survey.

Setting

The 1999–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Participants

A nationally representative sample of Americans aged 60 and older n = 2,333).

Measurements

Participants were classified by snacking frequency (0, 1, 2, 3, ≥4 snacks/d) and by the contribution of snacking to their daily energy intake (0 to <10%, 10% to <20%, 20% to <30%, ≥30%). Physical function was assessed by measurement of gait speed over 20 feet.

Results

After adjusting for age, gender, education, race/ethnicity, smoking status, and marital status, older adults who snacked four times or more daily had a faster gait speed (P = 0.033) than non-snackers. Snacking that contributed 20% to <30% (P = 0.017) of energy was associated with a faster gait speed than snacking that contributed 0 to <10% of energy. Similar associations were observed after further adjustment for potential confounders.

Conclusion

Both snacking frequency and percentage of energy from snacking are positively associated with gait speed among older adults. The benefits of snacking on older adults’ physical function may warrant their inclusion in this population’s diet.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. 1.

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention and The Merck Company Foundation. The State of Aging and Health in America 2007. Whitehouse Station, NJ: The Merck Company Foundation; 2007.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Guralnik JM, Ferrucci L. Assessing the building blocks of function utilizing measures of functional limitation. Am J Prev Med 2003;25:112–121.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Fried LP, Guralnik JM. Disability in older adults: evidence regarding significance, etiology, and risk. J Am Geriatr Soc 1997;45:92–100

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Studenski S, Perera S, Wallace D et al. Physical performance measures in the clinical setting. J Am Geriatr Soc 2003;51:314–322.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Montero-Odasso M, Schapira M, Soriano E et al. Gait velocity as a single predictor of adverse events in healthy seniors aged 75 years and older. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2004;60:1304–1309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Cesari M, Kritchevsky SB, Penninx B et al. Prognostic value of usual gait speed in well-functioning older people results from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2005;53:1675–1680.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Xu B, Houston D, Locher D et al. Higher healthy eating index-2005 scores are associated with better physical performance. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2012;67:93–99.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Kuczmarski M and Weddle D. Position paper of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition across the spectrum of aging. J Am Diet Assoc 2005; 105:616–633

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Houston DK, Stevens J, Cai J et al. Dairy, fruit, and vegetable intakes and functional limitations and disability in a biracial cohort: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:515–522.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Sharkey JR, Giuliani C, Haines PS et al. Summary measure of dietary musculoskeletal nutrient (calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus) intakes is associated with lower-extremity physical performance in homebound elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:847–856.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Murray B. Hydration and physical performance. J Am Coll Nutr 2007;26:542–548.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Cesari M, Pahor M, Bartali B et al. Antioxidants and physical performance in elderly persons: the Invecchiare in Chianti (InCHIANTI) study. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:289–294.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Zizza C, Tayie F and Lino M. Benefits of snacking in older Americans. J Am Diet Assoc 2007; 107: 800–806.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Zizza C, Ellison K and Wernette C. Total water intakes of community-living middle-old and oldest-old adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2009; 64: 481–486.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Zizza C, Arsiwalla D, Ellison K. Contribution of snacking to older adults’ vitamin, carotenoid, and mineral intakes. J Am Diet Assoc 2010; 110:768–772.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Locher J, Ritchie C, Robinson C, Roth D, Smith D and Burgio K. A multidimensional approach to understanding under-eating in homebound older adults: The importance of social factors. Gerontologist 2008; 48:223–234.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Walker D, Beauchene R. The relationship of loneliness, social isolation, and physical health to dietary adequacy of independently living elderly. J Am Diet Assoc 1991; 91:300–304.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Zizza C, Xu B. Snacking is associated with overall diet quality among older adults. J Am Diet Assoc 2012; 112:291–296.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Locher JL, Bales CW, Ellis AC, Lawrence JC, Newton L, Ritchie CS, Roth DL, Buys DL, Vickers KS. A theoretically based behavioral nutrition intervention for community elders at high risk: the B-NICE randomized controlled clinical trial. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr 2011;30:384–402.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Protocol. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhanes/. Accessed May 1, 2009.

  21. 21.

    Moshfegh AJ, Rhodes DG, Baer DJ et al. The US Department of Agriculture Automated Multiple-Pass Method reduces bias in the collection of energy intakes. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:324–332.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Keast, D.R., Nicklas, T.A. & O’Neil, CE. (2010) Snacking is associated with reduced risk of overweight and reduced abdominal obesity in adolescents: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999–2004. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 92:428–435.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    NHLBI Expert Panel. (1998) Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: the evidence report. Obes. Res. 6, 51–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Chernoff R. Protein and older adults. J Am Coll Nutr 2004;23: S627–S630.

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Thomas D. Vitamins and health in older persons. In: Watson RR, ed. Handbook of Nutrition in the Aged. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2009:15–28.

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Coyle J, Puttfarken P. Oxidative stress, glutamate, and neurodegenerative disorders. Science 1993;262:689–695.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Bjelakovic G, Nikolava D, Gluud LL, Simonette RG, Gluud C. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;2:CD007176. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007176.

  28. 28.

    Satia J, Littman A, Slatore C, Galanko J, White E Long-term use of beta-carotene, retinol, lycopene, and lutein supplements and lung cancer risk: esults from the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study. Am J Epidemiol 2009;169:815–828. Alipanah N, Varadhan R, Sun K, et al. Low serum carotenoids are associated with a decline in walking speed in older women. J Nutr Health Aging 2009;13:170–5.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Kretser AJ, Voss T, Kerr WW, Cavadini C, Friedmann J. Effects of two models of nutritional intervention on homebound older adults at nutritional risk. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103:329–336.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Thompson FE, Subar AF. Dietary assessment methodology. 2nd ed. In:Coulson AM and Boushey CJ, eds. Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease. Philadelphia, PA: Academic Press; 2008:3–39.

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Gibney MJ, Wolever TM. Periodicity of eating and human health: Present perspective and future directions. Br J Nutr 1997;77:S3–S5.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Sebastian RS, Cleveland LE, Goldman JD. Effect of snacking frequency on adolescents’ dietary intakes and meeting national recommendations. J Adolesc Health 2008;42:503–511.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Beibei Xu.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Xu, B., Yu, G.P., Zizza, C.A. et al. Snacking may improve physical function among older Americans. J Nutr Health Aging 17, 393–397 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-012-0441-1

Download citation

Key words

  • Dietary behavior
  • gait speed
  • older adults