To determine the difference in the nutritional status of elderly people depending on their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and to study the possible association between the consumption of these foods and different cardiovascular risk factors, especially total plasma homocysteine (t-Hcys) levels.
Design, setting and subjects
A cross-sectional study in 152 institutionalised older people from Madrid aged ≥ 65 years. Food and nutrient intakes were recorded over 7 days using the ‘precise individual weighing’ method. The weight, height, and waist and hip circumferences of all subjects were recorded, as were their α-erythrocyte glutathione reductase, serum B6, B12 and folate levels, erythrocyte folate levels, t-Hcys levels, serum lipids and blood pressure. The experimental population was then divided into tertiles depending on the serving intake of fruit and vegetables (T1, < 2.29 servings day− 1; T2, 2.29–2.79 servings day− 1; and T3, >2.79 servings day− 1).
Compared with T1 subjects, T3 subjects showed consumptions of cereals, pulses, meat, fish and eggs closer to those recommended (P < 0.05). In addition, the contribution of their diet towards covering the recommended daily intake of vitamin B1, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin C, B12, vitamin A, and P, Mg, Zn and Fe was higher. The intake of fibre increased with consumption of fruit and vegetables (r = 0.6839, P < 0.001). T3 subjects also had better serum and erythrocyte folate levels than T1 and T2 subjects (P < 0.05). A positive correlation was found between the consumption of fruit and vegetables and serum folate (r = 0.2665, P < 0.01) and with erythrocyte folate levels (r = 0.2034, P < 0.05), and a negative correlation with t-Hcys (r = − 0.2493, P < 0.01).
Greater consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with better food habits, increased vitamin and mineral intakes and lower t-Hcys levels. Considering that the fruit and vegetable intake in Spanish elderly people is very low, it is recommended that the consumption of fruits and vegetables by elderly people be increased.