URI researchers examine health disparities in older adults as part of federal project

Study on age-related muscle loss to be presented at international symposium

Posted on

KINGSTON, R.I., July 19, 2017 — Faculty at the University of Rhode Island and colleagues from across the nation will present research age-related muscle loss in older women as part of a symposium at the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics next week in San Francisco.

The symposium, “Successes in older adult nutrition and physical activity studies,” is the result of a multi-state research project that began in 1989 through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Midlife and older adults represent the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and have higher rates of obesity, chronic disease and disability than previous generations and younger adults.

URI has teamed up with researchers at universities in several other states to address ways to improve health disparities facing older adults. The URI researchers, Matthew Delmonico, professor of kinesiology; Ingrid Lofgren, associate professor of nutrition and food sciences; and Furong Xu, associate professor of kinesiology; are with the College of Health Sciences, part of the University’s Academic Health Collaborative. The URI scientists are part of a team of scientists from Iowa State University, New York University, University of Massachusetts, Mississippi State University and West Virginia University.

“The University of Rhode Island is pleased to join with other universities to improve the health and wellness of midlife and aging adults through research and educational programming. Research has shown that many of the chronic diseases faced by this age group are preventable through diet and/or exercise,” Lofgren said.

The URI-led study looked at two groups of older women — those who were obese and those who were sedentary but not necessarily obese. The researchers determined that current criteria do not adequately identify sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, in older women who are obese, and suggested that larger studies including more diverse samples of inactive but otherwise-healthy women are needed. They also cited the lack of a consensus for a clinical definition of sarcopenia, which has led to the creation of working groups to develop criteria.

The multi-state project is designed to find new interventions and approaches to improve the nutritional health of older adults. Specifically, the research team is evaluating how lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, affect food security and individual health and well-being.

The project research examines three areas: molecular and mechanistic understanding of how nutrients and activity can influence age-related diseases, environmental factors that influence the adoption of health-promoting lifestyle changes, and lifestyle needs assessment and evaluation of lifestyle interventions that lead to measurable outcomes.