Eating Habits, Nutritional Status and Portion Sizes in the Elderly Population of Mauritius
It is known that nutrition plays a role in the ageing process, however the elderly do not give enough importance to their diet and they very often have inadequate dietary intake and misconceptions about portion sizes. As the number of older people is increasing, their nutritional and health status become a major concern for public health authorities. Nutritional studies in the elderly population are required in order to get a better understanding of their dietary intake and lifestyle characteristics. A study was therefore conducted to investigate (i) the Mauritian elderly people’s nutritional status using anthropometric measurements such as weight and height, (ii) their food consumption patterns as well as the portion sizes of their foods using a food frequency questionnaires which were administered to a random sample of male and female elderly population (n=60) aged 58 years old and above. The interview was carried out face to face. The findings of this study showed that the nutritional status assessed by anthropometry is rather unsatisfactory with a large proportion of obese independent of sex. As for the food patterns of the Mauritian elderly individuals, they were characterized by a prominent consumption of the following four food categories: beverages, dairy products, meat and fish products, vegetables and fruits. For beverages, we observed that tea (93.3%), milk (66.6%) and water (96.7%) were most frequently consumed. In the dairy product group, the majority of them consumed yogurt (61.7%). Rice (98.3%) and “Farata” (66.7%) were the most frequently consumed carbohydrate group. We also found that, for the meat category, chicken (73.3%) was preferred by most of them. 88.3% and 96.7% of the study sample population consumed fruits and vegetables respectively. Intakes of other mixed food products were of much lower levels. Characteristic dietary features, such as missing meals and eating out, were not observed among the elderly. Moreover, it was found that the portion size of food intake varied largely among the elderly subjects. However, although more female than male respondents (73.3% vs. 26.3%) considered portion sizes of food to be very important they did not have a clear notion what an appropriate portion size is. Our study showed that the nutritional status of the elderly population as assessed by anthropometry was not satisfactory with a high prevalence of obesity, although their dietary patterns revealed relatively good eating habits. This discrepancy could be attributed either to other lifestyle characteristics or diseases appearing in old age. Further nutrition and healthy lifestyle education is thus warranted in this population.
Keywords: Nutrition survey, eating habits, nutritional status, portion size, elderly, Mauritius