Elderly Americans:

Nutrition Information Is Limited and Guidelines Are Lacking

T-PEMD-92-11: Published: Jul 30, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1992.

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GAO discussed poor and near-poor elderly persons, focusing on whether: (1) national nutrition surveys take into account the unique attributes and heterogeneity of the elderly population; and (2) the criteria and guidelines available are adequate to determine the nutritional status of the elderly. GAO noted that: (1) neither the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NFCS) nor the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) provide a comprehensive picture of the nutritional intake of the elderly; (2) both surveys assess the nutritional intake of the population as a whole, and therefore data regarding the elderly in general are limited in many ways; (3) deviations from the original NFCS design, and lax controls over the collection and processing of the results, raise doubts about the quality and usefulness of its data; (4) although NHANES was designed to examine the nutrition and health status of Americans, there are some limitations in the use of NHANES for studying the interaction between diet and disease; and (5) presently there are no definitive guidelines concerning the actual nutritional needs of the elderly, and current guidelines do not specifically address the needs of persons aged 65 and over or the particular needs of elderly subpopulations, such as those persons older than 75.

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