European journal of nutrition. 2019;58(8):3221-3228
Plain language summary
In older adults, maintaining independence is determined by the ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADL), such as bathing and walking. Certain features of carbohydrate-rich foods known as the glycaemic index (GI), and glycaemic load (GL) have been implicated in the development of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Other aspects of carbohydrate quality such as fibre intake have been shown to influence the risk of chronic diseases that are more common with ageing. This prospective study aimed to examine the association between the GI and GL of foods consumed, intakes of carbohydrates and fibre, and the ability to perform ADL in older adults. A total of 844 participants from the Blue Mountains Eye Study in Australia, aged 60 years or older were examined from 2002-2004 to 2007-2009. Dietary information was collected using a food-frequency questionnaire, and functional status was assessed using an activities of daily living scale. Participants who reported moderate consumption of dietary fibre (19.1g to 29.6g fibre per day) had a lower risk of experiencing instrumental ADL (IADL) disability compared with those in the lowest group of fibre consumption (19g fibre or less per day); that is, they were more likely to be able to use the telephone, get to places out of walking distance, do housework, take their own medications, and handle money at the 5-year follow-up. There was no added benefit for fibre intake above 19.6g per day. Other baseline carbohydrate nutrition variables, including GI, GL, and total carbohydrate intake, were not associated with ADL disability over the 5 years. The researchers concluded that these findings could inform the development of targeted intervention strategies to encourage a greater intake of fibre-rich foods in older adults, potentially preserving or delaying further deterioration in physical functioning.