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Which diets are best for late-life health?

14 March 2017
Participants sought for Nutrition for Healthy Ageing trial

Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre are seeking older Australians for a new meal delivery trial to test how simple dietary changes can impact late-life health.  

Over four weeks, participants will have all of their meals and snacks delivered to their door, with recruits randomly assigned to one of four diets with varying amounts of carbohydrates and fats.

The research team aims to recruit 220 participants aged between 65 and 75 years who have no food allergies or intolerances to take part in the study.

“Older people are at higher risk of developing nutritional deficiencies because they tend to eat less than younger people,” said co-lead investigator Dr Rosilene Waern from the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

“At the same time, as people age their nutritional requirements for certain nutrients also increases, such as calcium and vitamin D for bone health.

“We want to explore which combination of nutrients can help people in later life to improve their metabolic health and insulin resistance, their gut health and microbiome, physical performance and mobility and also examine how certain diets affect the inflammatory autoimmune response.

This age group is good to test dietary interventions because they might have more time to make these kinds of simple changes, and are typically more interested in their health and wellbeing at this point in their lives.
Dr Rosilene Waern, co-lead investigator

Participants in the Nutrition for Healthy Ageing trial will be required to visit the Charles Perkins Centre clinic in person twice during the four week trial, and to note in a food diary how their appetite is affected by the four-week meal plan.

Researchers hope the results will shed light on how dietary interventions could improve quality of life in aging populations, and to extend longevity.

Previous studies from the Charles Perkins Centre have shown that mice fed a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet lived longer and were more metabolically healthy than those fed a high-protein diet. But in  humans there’s a risk that if you put someone on a low protein diet they will feel really hungry and they might make the wrong food choices,” said lead investigator Dr Alison Gosby.

“Vegetarians and vegans are more likely to eat less energy even though they consume less protein than meat-eaters. What we’ve done in this meal delivery program is manipulate the amount of plant- versus animal foods on low-moderate protein diets.

“This will provide us with the opportunity to explore appetite and health responses to animal versus plant-based diets under controlled dietary conditions.”

The trial will begin from April and will accept participants for the next 12 months.

More information

If you would like to know more about joining the Nutrition for Healthy Ageing trial, contact nhl.research@sydney.edu.au.