Proper nutrition extends lifespans in older adults, new study indicates

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Nutrition is often regarded as helpful, but it is not always a physician’s first defense in fighting disease.

Clinical nutrition expert Nicolaas Deutz proved that nutrition is key in extending the lifespan of older patients with cardiovascular and pulmonary disease.

“I am such a believer in nutrition, and now we finally have a study that confirms the notion that it really makes a difference,” Deutz said.

Deutz and his co-researcher’s study included 600 patients admitted to the hospital for either a COPD exacerbation or chronic heart failure exacerbation. They began administering specialized oral supplements containing protein and HMB.

HMB is a compound that bodies produce naturally from an amino acid, but not enough to make a difference for older patients with cardiovascular and pulmonary disease.

“We found that just by giving this oral nutrition in a placebo double-blind randomized controlled trial fashion actually improved their survival substantially,” Deutz said.

Deutz and his team analyzed the data further and found that they even reduced mortality by more than 70 percent for patients with COPD exacerbation. Deutz calculated that the findings translate to a one-year life extension, which he said is huge.

“It really shows that nutrition is very effective in this situation and can have an effect that is larger than many other medical interventions,” Deutz said. “Nutrition should be part of our regular care.”

Even for older adults without disease, Deutz encourages appropriate nutrition and exercise. He hopes to continue research in this area to show that nutrition is key in extending the lifespan for all older adults.

“Nutrition is not some kind of expensive drug, it is very simple and cost effective, but it has such a major effect,” Deutz said.

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