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Because they experience chronic diseases, many elderly persons are advised to follow a special therapeutic diet. Other elderly people follow a special diet for personal reasons. When different diseases coexist in the same individual, special diets may be superimposed; the result may be low food intake and dietary inadequacy (1).
Reports on dietary compliance in the elderly are limited. Horwath and Worsley (2) evaluated the dietary intake of 151 elderly persons with diabetes from a group of 3,000 individuals aged 65 years and older residing in South Australia. They found that adherence to the recommendations on dietary fat, complex carbohydrates, and fiber by these persons was poor regardless of sex, age, occupational status, educational attainment, income, or marital status. The few reports in the literature about dietary compliance by the elderly are limited to patients attending clinics (3,4) and to the effectiveness or feasibility of dietary intervention (5-7). We found no information about nutrient consumption among the elderly, particularly the noninstitutionalized rural elderly, who are following professionally prescribed or self-selected special diets. As part of a regional research project, 11 land-grant universities located in 11 US southern states have been studying noninstitutionalized rural elderly. In this article we report some of the findings on nutrient intakes of the rural elderly, specifically, whether following a special diet had any impact on intake.
The unified sampling and data collection procedures used by the 11 participating universities have been outlined elsewhere (8,9). Rural counties with no more than a 30% urban population according to the 1980 US census data were included in the sampling. Based on population size and median household income, six representative rural counties were selected from each state. A representative sample of 300 persons was then selected from each state, resulting in a total of 3,300 persons aged 65 years or older (age range = 65 to 106 years). Persons with incomplete records were eliminated, so data on 3,021 persons are reported. The sample sizes in the tables vary slightly as a result …