The research, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that black women who consumed the highest amounts of dairy products and fruits and vegetables close to the amounts recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans had at least a 30 percent lower risk of disability than participants who consumed the lowest amounts of these foods.
And, among all participants, eating more of these foods was associated with lower risk for functional limitations, such as being unable to walk a quarter of a mile or climb 10 steps, that often precede disability.
"In general, there was an association between dairy, fruit and vegetable intake and functional limitations and disability," said Denise Houston, Ph.D., a research associate at Wake Forest Baptist. "Getting the recommended number of servings of dairy, fruits and vegetables should be investigated for its potential to reduce the prevalence of disability in the aging population."
Houston, who completed the study while she was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the findings are important because the number of disabled elderly is expected to triple between 1985 and 2050. About half of people over age 65 will become disabled enough to require some nursing home care.
"We know that obesity, lack of physical exercise, alcohol consumption and smoking are modifiable risk factors for disability, but little is known about the role of diet," said Houston, a registered dietitian.
The researchers believe this is the first study to report on an association between disability and eating certain foods. For the
Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center