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Long-Term Care Facilities Should Provide Nutritional Therapy for Patients with Diabetes and Risk of Frailty

The International Diabetes Foundation has reported that by 2035, the number of patients with diabetes will increase to 590 million. The largest rise is projected among older adults, with an expected 252.8 million cases in 2035. Diabetes is one of the primary causes of disease burden among older adults. Not only do diabetic older adults have increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, they’re also at risk of cognitive dysfunction, functional limitations, and disability. Frailty is also a critical predictor of disability. However, not much research has been done to explore the possible associations between diabetes and frailty, and the mechanisms that could clarify this relationship are unclear.

A recent study evaluated the possible relationship between diabetes and the risk of frailty in the elderly and analyzed the extent to which this relationship could be explained by unhealthy habits, comorbid conditions and cardiometabolic biomarkers related to diabetes, as well as the effectiveness of antidiabetic treatment and antihypertensive or lipid-lowering medication.

The study found that diabetes was related to an increased risk of frailty. This increased risk was partly due to unhealthy behaviors and obesity, and, even more so, by poor glucose control and modified serum lipid profile among diabetic individuals. The results of the study suggest that poor glycemic and lipid control could also increase the risk of frailty related to diabetes mellitus in older adults.

Nutrition therapy was found to lower the risk of diabetes-related frailty. Research has shown that diabetes nutrition therapy can effectively improve blood glucose control. Evidence-based nutritional care has also proven to reduce total triglycerides, cholesterol, and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and raise HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol). Long-term care facilities such as assisted living communities and nursing homes should screen their residents for frailty and provide nutritional therapy if necessary.