Higher levels of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in an elderly individual means less of a chance of becoming frail. Frailty is defined by having at least two of the following criteria: low muscle strength, feeling of exhaustion, low walking speed, and reduced physical activity. A prospective, population-based study appeared in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science (2006 ; 61(6): 594-9); it looked at micronutrient concentration in 766 women over the age of 64 (data gathered from Women’s Health and Aging Study I, a population-based study of moderately to severely disabled community-dwelling women in Baltimore, Maryland) . The levels of vitamins A, D, E, B6, and B12, carotenoids, folate, zinc, and selenium were measured in the plasma at the beginning of the study. Frailty status was determined at the beginning of the study and during three yearly follow-up visits. After adjusting for other factors, it was found with the lowest levels of carotenoids, alpha-tocopherol or 25-hydorxy vitamin D had a marked increase in the risk of becoming frail. Deficiencies in more nutrients also correlated with more frailty.
Similarly, low intake of nutrients was associated with an increased chance of becoming frail, according to research appearing in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science (2006 ; 61(6): 589-93). Data was gathered from InCHIANTI (Invecchiare in Chianti, aging in the Chianti area) study. Information about nutrient intake was obtained from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC) questionnaire. Low protein intake and low caloric intake (less than 21 kcal/kg) was associated with frailty. Low intake of vitamins D, E, C or folic acid were also associated with frailty. Low intake of three or more vitamins was also associated with frailty. These studies demonstrate that nutrient deficiency and low intake of protein, calories and nutrients are associated with frailty.