Persons living beyond 85 years of age are the fastest-growing segment of the US population (1,2). Coincident with this growth is an increase in the number of elderly persons residing in [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] long-term-care (LTC) facilities. As people age, many physiological, psychological, functional, and socioeconomic changes occur that affect their desire and ability to consume foods and use nutrients (3-7). These changes, coupled with increased occurrence of chronic conditions, place the elderly at nutritional risk. Poor nutritional status in this population has been shown to delay response to medical therapies and to lead to increased morbidity and mortality (3,8,9).
Older adults have greater nutrient requirements than the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) suggest (10). The RDAs were established to prevent dietary deficiencies rather than to control or prevent chronic conditions. Furthermore, the RDAs were established on the basis of research performed in younger, healthier populations; therefore, they may not be sufficient for older adults. Researchers have suggested higher requirements for folic acid, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 because of their roles in homocysteine metabolism and possibly for vitamin D and calcium to prevent osteoporosis (11).
Supplementation of the diet with medical nutrition supplements improves energy, protein, vitamin, and mineral intakes and nutrition assessment parameters in older adults (12-14). Some clinicians remain skeptical, however, because they believe the supplements may replace energy and nutrient intakes from meals. The purpose of this study was to compare the use of medical nutrition [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] supplements and snacks provided in LTC facilities in older adults at risk for poor nutritional status.
METHODS AND MATERIALS
Ninety-one residents from 4 LTC facilities were recruited to participate in this study. Residents had to be at least 60 years old, have no known allergies to any product ingredients, and not be receiving nutrition by tube or vein.
Eligible residents were determined to be at risk by the Omnibus …