Author(s): Chilima DM, Ismail SJ
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Older people are becoming an increasingly important proportion of the populations of developing countries, yet little information exists on their nutritional status or social conditions. OBJECTIVE: To assess the nutritional status of older people in rural Malawi. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING: Lilongwe, Malawi. SUBJECTS: A total of 296 respondents (97 males and 199 females) aged from 55-94 y were studied. METHODS: Selected anthropometric measurements were taken by trained personnel. Among kyphotic respondents, height was estimated from armspan using regression equations derived from the non-kyphotic respondents. Body mass index (BMI) and corrected arm muscle area (CAMA) were computed using standard equations. RESULTS: The mean age of the respondents was 63.3 y and 68.9 y among females and males, respectively. Kyphosis was seen in 17.3\% of all subjects and oedema in 4.1\%. Nearly 90\% of the subjects were involved in agricultural activities. Men were heavier and taller than women but women had larger MUACs and triceps skinfolds than males. The mean BMIs in kg/m2 (+/- s.d.) were as follows: 19.7 (2.6) for men and 20.3 (3.0) for women. The prevalence of undernutrition, defined as BMI< 18.5 kg/m2, was 36.1\% among males and 27.0\% among females. In contrast, using MUAC (cut-offs 23 cm for males and 22 cm for females), 20.4\% of the men and only 10\% of the women were classified as malnourished. CONCLUSION: The study demonstrated for the first time that undernutrition is a significant problem among older people in rural Malawi. It highlights the need to incorporate older people into existing and future nutrition and health programmes.
This article was published in Eur J Clin Nutr
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research