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J Nutr Health Aging. 2011 Jan;15(1):3-8.

Depressive symptoms are associated with food insufficiency and nutritional deficiencies in poor community-dwelling elderly people.

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Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Evaluation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, PO Box 653, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel.


Depression is associated with nutritional deterioration in older persons and is highly prevalent among people of low socioeconomic status (LSES).


To determine the prevalence of depressive symptoms and food insufficiency, and to examine the relationship between dietary intake, food insufficiency and depression, in LSES community dwelling elderly.


Cross-sectional study.


Lod, a town in the central Israel.


Community-dwelling welfare recipients aged 60 to 92.


Depression was assessed by 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-short version), using a score ≥ 10 as the cut off point for clinically important depressive symptoms. Dietary intake was evaluated using a 24-hour dietary recall. Food insufficiency was defined by participants reporting that they did not have enough food to eat " sometimes " or " often " .


This study reports on 112 persons aged 60 years and above (27.1% men). The prevalence of depression in this population was 47%; 25% of the study sample was classified as " food insufficient " . Macronutrients intake was similar for depressed and non-depressed persons, except for polyunsaturated fats which was lower among the depressed group (7.9 ± 4.9 vs.11.0 ± 7.5 g/day in the non-depressed, p=0.03). Vitamins and minerals intake was lower than recommended for both groups; vitamin E intake was associated with depression. In regression models controlling for confounding variables, an increase of 1 mg in vitamin E intake and 1 gram in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) intake was associated with lower risk for depression (OR=0.73, p=0.008 and OR=0.86, p=0.007 respectively) Participants who reported food insufficiency were 10 times more likely to be depressed compared with those who reported sufficient food.


Given the evaluated adverse association between depressive symptoms and food insufficiency, more efforts are needed to guarantee adequate food intake, particularly foods rich in vitamin E and PUFA, in poor elderly people. Further studies are needed to clarify the temporal relationship between the emotional and nutritional domains in this vulnerable population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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