As we journey through life, our bodies undergo natural changes, including a gradual loss of bone strength and an increased susceptibility to frailty. However, a groundbreaking study has shed light on how incorporating specific foods into our diet, such as apples, can potentially stave off frailty and keep us feeling strong and resilient as we age.
Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study delves into the impact of certain foods containing quercetin, a specialized subclass of flavonoids known for their potent antioxidant properties. These compounds are naturally abundant in various fruits and vegetables and play a pivotal role in bolstering overall health and well-being.
The research focused on a group of 1,701 individuals who were initially classified as non-frail. Participants were required to complete a self-questionnaire assessing their flavonoid intake. Over the course of 12 years, 13.2% of the participants developed frailty, a clinical syndrome among older adults associated with an elevated risk of adverse health outcomes, including falls, disability, hospitalization, and even mortality.
While the study did not establish a direct link between total flavonoid intake and frailty development, it revealed a remarkable finding: every 10 mg/day increase in flavonol intake was associated with a 20% reduction in the odds of frailty onset. More significantly, a higher intake of quercetin specifically showed a striking 35% decrease in the odds of frailty onset, surpassing other subclasses of flavonoids.
So, what exactly is quercetin, and how does it impact frailty? Quercetin is a plant compound renowned for its powerful antioxidant properties, as explained by Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet. Its ability to combat inflammation is key to maintaining our health, emphasized Melissa Prest, D.C.N., R.D.N., national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board.
Quercetin occurs naturally in various foods, including yellow and green peppers, cherries, apples, red grapes, kale, berries, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, olive oil, capers, parsley, asparagus, citrus fruits, and leafy vegetables. Previous scientific research has already explored the potential of quercetin in improving bone health, with ongoing clinical trials investigating its capacity to protect against bone loss and stimulate bone formation. The recent study’s findings further reinforce the notion that a higher intake of quercetin correlates with a reduced risk of frailty among adults.
In addition to incorporating quercetin-rich foods into their diet, older adults can adopt several proactive measures to prevent frailty. “Consuming adequate calories daily, particularly protein, is crucial to decrease the risk of frailty in aging adults,” advises Gans. Protein, an essential component for older individuals, is often under-consumed. Prest adds that incorporating protein-rich foods like low-sugar or plain low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, beans, eggs, or chicken into each meal and snack is highly beneficial.
Moreover, engaging in a fitness routine that includes activities such as walking and resistance exercises is vital. As we age, our muscle mass naturally declines, but maintaining an active lifestyle through walking or strength training can help preserve strength and resilience, according to Gans.
Furthermore, individuals who cultivate strong social connections and engage in continuous learning experiences are also at a lower risk of frailty, notes Prest. Thus, it is crucial to keep the mind sharp to sustain physical well-being.
In conclusion, frailty is a common concern among older adults, with studies indicating a progressive increase in its prevalence with age. For optimum health benefits, Gans emphasizes the importance of incorporating a diverse range of plant-based foods into daily meals. Reflecting on your dietary habits and considering the inclusion of more quercetin-rich foods may prove instrumental in maintaining bone strength and warding off the debilitating effects of frailty in the long run.
While consuming fruits and vegetables is an effective way to obtain quercetin, some individuals may opt for quercetin supplements. However, Prest advises consulting a healthcare provider beforehand due to potential interactions with certain medications, including antibiotics, anticoagulants, chemotherapy drugs, corticosteroids, cyclosporine, digoxin, fluoroquinolones, and liver-altered medications.
In a world where aging is inevitable, nourishing our bodies with the right foods and adopting healthy lifestyle choices can empower us to live life to the fullest, embracing the journey with strength, vitality, and resilience.