Poor nutrition puts elderly Ecuadorians at risk

January - February, 2009  |  Volume 8, Issue 1

Elderly Ecuadorians are at high risk for respiratory infections due to compromised immune systems linked to poor nutrition, a Fogarty cosponsored study has found.

Testing among 352 study participants by Dr. Davidson H. Hamer and a team led by Fogarty grantee Dr. Simin Nikbin Meydani found substantial deficiencies of vitamins C, D, B-6 and B-12 as well as folic acid and zinc—indicators of poor immune response.

In addition to doing blood tests, body measurements and interviews over a 16-month period, the researchers collected fecal samples that suggested a majority of the Ecuadorians are living in a contaminated environment of poor hygiene, sanitation, water and nutrition. The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

“In view of the rising proportion of the population that is aged in Ecuador and other countries in Latin America, and the anticipated increased health care costs associated with this demographic transition, there is a need to develop and test low-cost, simple nutritional and behavior change interventions to improve nutritional status, strengthen immune function, and minimize the risk of acquisition and severity of infectious diseases of the elderly in this region,” the article concluded.

“Micronutrient Deficiencies Are Associated with Impaired Immune Response and Higher Burden of Respiratory Infections in Elderly Ecuadorians.” Davidson H. Hamer, Fernando Sempértegui, Bertha Estrella et. al. J. Nutr. 2009 139: 113-119.

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