Eat up to help research

Tuesday, 21st March, 2017

MEAL PLANNING - Researchers in Sydney are looking for older Australians to take part in the Nutrition for Healthy Ageing study.

CAN simple changes to what we eat make us healthier in later life? This is one question researchers at the University of Sydney hope to answer.

The team at the university's Charles Perkins Centre is looking for older Australians to take part in a trial to test how simple dietary changes can impact late-life heatlh.

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

"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.

"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."

The research team aims to recruit 220 people aged between 65 and 75 who have no food allergies or intolerances for the Nutrition for Healthy Ageing trial.

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

Researchers hope the results will shed light on how dietary interventions could improve quality of life in ageing 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," said lead investigator Dr Alison Gosby.

"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.

"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.

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