Sarah Toland

Take a look at your daily diet if you want to increase your chances of being an active elder. Recent research from the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center suggests that eating lots of dairy, fruits, and vegetables each day can help prevent the onset of disability as you get older (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005, vol. 81, no. 2).

Participants who ate at least two servings of dairy and six servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis lowered their risk for becoming feeble by 30 percent.

Based on the results of a nine-year study, researchers determined that participants who ate at least two servings of dairy and six servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis lowered their risk for becoming feeble by 30 percent. Disability risk was measured as functional limitations, which often precede disabilities and include being unable to walk a quarter of a mile or climb ten steps. Of the 16,000 participants in the study, who varied in age from 45 to 64, black women who followed diets rich in dairy and fruits and vegetables demonstrated the greatest disability risk reduction. Researchers estimate that by 2050, approximately half of all Americans over 65 will become disabled to the point of requiring nursing home care.

Although researchers aren’t certain why such foods help prevent feeble aging, the study authors speculate that dairy’s high calcium and vitamin D content counteracts osteoporosis and decreased muscle strength. In addition, antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may reduce the accumulation of oxidative damage in the tissues and thus slow aging and decrease chronic disease risk.