Disabled Americans fall short on nutrition

Most U.S. adults fail to meet recommended daily levels of 10 key nutrients, and people with disabilities have even worse nutrition than average, according to a study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
“In general, people with disabilities are disadvantaged nutritionally compared with people without disabilities, even though the bar is already so low, Ruopeng An, PhD, University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor, stated.


Ruopeng An

To determine how physical or mental difficulties can affect nutrition, researchers from the University of Illinois analyzed two waves of self-reported food and supplement consumption data from 11,811 adults, more than 4,200 of whom qualified as disabled. The team drew the data from the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which are conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Disabled American adults were even less likely than those without a disability to meet recommended dietary levels of saturated fat, fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium, the researchers found. The only exceptions were among people with the lowest level of disability, whose intakes were comparable to non-disabled adults.
An said those with the most severe physical and mental challenges were least likely to eat well due to the challenges they must overcome to obtain, prepare and eat a healthy diet.
“Physically, financially and mentally, they have different barriers to accessing healthy food,” he said.
People with disabilities can have difficulty navigating a grocery store, grasping small items, opening cans or jars, or standing at a countertop to prepare food. Some have difficulty chewing or digesting certain foods, or may be restricted to a liquid diet. They can also use medications that affect their appetite or ability to taste foods, An said.

For more information:

An R. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014; doi:10.1111/jhn.12274/.

Disclosure: An has no relevant financial disclosures.


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