, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp 242-248

Relationship between bone mineral density and dietary intakes in the elderly

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Dietary protein and/or calorie insufficiencies represent an important problem in elderly patients. The biological and clinical implications, and particularly the influence on bone mass of undernutrition in the elderly, have not been completely defined, although several studies have demonstrated a high prevalence of dietary insufficiencies in patients with a recent fracture of the proximal femur. In the present study the relationship between dietary intakes, physical performance and bone mineral density (BMD) was examined in hospitalized elderly patients. The study comprised 74 patients (48 women, mean age 82 years; and 26 men, mean age 80 years) who were hospitalized for various medical indications. They were divided into two groups according to their dietary protein intakes, evaluated during the first 28 days in hospital while on a regular diet. The first group consisted of 26 patients (14 women and 12 men) whose protein intake was equal to or greater than 1 g per kilogram of ideal body weight. The second group consisted of 48 patients (34 women and 14 men) who consumed less than 1 g of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight. The two groups differed also in their energy, carbohydrate, lipid and calcium intakes. Patients in the group with the higher protein intake displayed higher BMD at the level of the femoral neck as measured by dual-photon absorptiometry. The men in this group also had higher lumbar spine BMD. After 4 weeks in hospital the women with a higher protein intake had significantly enhanced bicipital and quadricipital muscle strength and better performance as indicated by the increased capacity to climb stairs. These results indicate that lower dietary intakes in hospitalized elderly patients without fractures are associated with lower physical performance and lower femoral neck BMD. Thus, the role of dietary factors, including protein, in the risk of proximal femoral fractures deserves further investigation.