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Health

There's More Than One Reason For Malnutrition In Seniors

Elderly senior citizen hand on cane
Meena Kadri, Flickr, Creative Commons
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Researchers are raising questions about malnutrition among North Carolina's senior citizens. Doctors at UNC Hospitals report, over a two month period, more than half of patients ages 65 or older who came to the emergency department were either malnourished or a risk of malnutrition.

The study looked at about 140 older patients and saw no notable difference in the nutrition of rural versus urban seniors. There was also no noticeable difference between genders. The greater discrepancy came with access to proper food.

"People who report difficulty buying groceries for financial reasons... had a significantly higher rates of malnutrition," said Timothy Platts-Mills, MD., lead author of the study.  People with financial restrictions had a 35 percent rate of malnutrition.

But money wasn't the only concern. Depression and transportation issues also contributed to higher rates of malnutrition. And, what's more, those patients can be more difficult to treat.

"Some of these malnourished patients are pretty poor and getting them additional access to food is the solution," said Platts-Mills.

"And there's probably another group of patients for whom things are a little more complicated. And depression or isolation or difficulty eating might be an underlying cause there."

Platts-Mills believes more work needs to be done assessing the efficacy of education programs before they can be recommended as a viable solution.
 

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