PURPOSE: To investigate the longitudinal association between the macronutrient composition of the diet and frailty.
METHODS: Data were obtained from 5205 Dutch middle-aged and older adults participating in the Rotterdam Study. Frailty was measured using a frailty index based on the accumulation of 38 health-related deficits, score between 0 and 100, and a higher score indicating more frailty. Frailty was assessed at baseline and 11 years later (range of 23 years). Macronutrient intake was assessed using food-frequency questionnaires. The association between macronutrients and frailty over time was evaluated using multivariable linear regression, adjusted for the frailty index at baseline, energy intake, and other relevant confounders. All analyses were performed in strata of BMI.
RESULTS: Median frailty index score was 13.8 points (IQR 9.6; 19.1) at baseline and increased by a median of 2.3 points (IQR - 2.0; 7.6) after 11 years. Overall, we found no significant associations between intake of carbohydrates or fat and frailty over time. We did observe a significant positive association between an iso-energetic intake of 10 g protein and frailty over time (β 0.31 (95% CI 0.06; 0.55)) which was mainly driven by animal protein (β 0.31 (95% CI 0.07; 0.56)). It did not depend on whether it was substituted fat or carbohydrates.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that a reduction in the intake of animal protein may improve the overall health status over time in a relatively healthy population. More research is needed on the optimal macronutrient composition of the diet and frailty in more vulnerable populations.