Older adults in New Orleans tend to eat fewer servings of fresh fruits and vegetables and consume less food overall than their younger counterparts, according to a citywide phone survey conducted by the Tulane Prevention Research Center.
Adults 75 years of age and older consumed 2.3 servings of fresh produce, compared with a full three servings per day for adults less than 50 years of age, and were significantly less likely to get four or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. National guidelines recommend at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The findings were published online in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.
“Across the city and the country, our population is aging, and we need to address factors that can promote successful, healthy aging,” said Dr. Gretchen Clum, lead author of the study, an associate professor at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and an co-investigator at the Tulane Prevention Research Center.
“Our study shows that older age is significantly associated with eating less fresh fruits and vegetables, which can place older adults at greater nutritional risk than their younger counterparts and may contribute to declining health.”
The Tulane PRC study involved landline phone surveys with nearly 3,000 residents, asking questions about how frequently they grocery shopped, where they shopped, their mode of transportation, and their eating habits.
Findings from the study confirm and add to previous research on diet patterns in the South, which has poorer overall nutritional habits compared to the rest of the country, Dr. Clum said. The study also found that men, those reporting poorer health, and African-American residents tend to eat less fresh fruits and vegetables, Dr. Clum added.
The exact causes for why older adults and other survey respondents ate less fresh produce weren’t examined in this study. But the authors found that several risk factors that have been connected to lower fruit and vegetable consumption were also common in older populations, such as lower car ownership, lower income, and decreased mobility. While not examined in the study, the authors also suggest that older adults may have oral health issues that make eating fresh fruits and vegetables difficult, or have decreased appetite for fruits and vegetables. The study points to the need for nutritional interventions targeted to older adults and particularly those who report poorer health, are African American, or are male.