A large proportion of community-living older persons have a deficient intake of nutrients according to the Recommended Dietary Allowance but the prevalence of undernutrition is frequently underestimated. A low dietary intake of antioxidants may alter the balance between oxidants and antioxidants and lead to oxidative stress, which has been associated with dysregulation of cellular and immune function, increased levels of markers of inflammation, muscle and neural damage and the development of clinical conditions. Previous studies showed an association between poor nutrition and frailty and disability in older persons and suggested that oxidative stress plays a central role in this pathway. This review summarizes the evidence that: 1) the older population is particularly prone to undernutrition; and 2) poor nutrition in older persons represents an “oxidatively stressing condition” that may lead to the development of important adverse outcomes such as frailty and disability. A conceptual framework for this hypothesized link between poor nutrition and frailty and disability in older persons is presented. More attention on nutritional status in older persons could represent an important window of opportunity to reduce or postpone the detrimental consequences related to oxidative stress.
Keywords: Antioxidants, Superoxide dismutase, Vitamin C, nuclear factor kappaB, cognitive function
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