Is household food insecurity associated with chronic energy deficiency among Filipino elderly?

Published July 10, 2021, 12:32 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

There is high prevalence of undernutrition among Filipino elderly in food insecure households, based on the results of a study conducted by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).

(Manila Bulletin File Photo)

The DOST-FNRI warned that “food insecurity may aggravate the situation of the elderly, particularly those with poor nutritional and micronutrient status.”

The study showed that about 83 percent of the Filipino seniors were not meeting the recommended energy intake, and about 71 percent were not meeting the recommended protein intake.

“In terms of health and nutrition, undernutrition was significantly higher in food insecure households while overnutrition was significantly higher in food secure group,” it said.

It also observed that iodine deficiency was significantly higher in food insecure households.

It added that protein inadequacy in the diet of Filipino seniors in food insecure households has also been observed.

The study used the secondary data from the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENSS), involving 4,664 participants.

“The study was undertaken to understand the nutritional status of elderly in the context of food security. The study examined the association between the nutritional status of the elderly and the household food insecurity status,” the DOST-FNRI said.

In terms of health status, the DOST-FNRI researchers found that 13.6 percent have high fasting blood sugar, 36.8 percent have elevated blood pressure, 47.1 percent were physically inactive; 16.3 percent were smoking; and 31.6 percent were drinking alcohol.

The team noted that the odds of being food insecure was higher among males, poor households, those with low educational attainment who finished elementary and high school education, and among those who live in rural areas.

“Chronic energy deficiency was more likely to occur among elderly with inadequate energy and niacin intakes, and those with no elevated blood pressure. It was less likely to occur among elderly from middle and rich households,” the study showed.

The researchers recommended that advocacy and promotion for backyard vegetable gardening be strengthened to ensure household food security.

They also cited the need for the government to enhance the health and nutrition programs for elderly. These are the following: regular monitoring of nutritional status and blood pressure in local health centers, continuous provision of maintenance medicines, intervention for chronic energy deficiency, and nutrition education with emphasis on increasing food intake, particularly iodine-rich foods.