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BACKGROUND: Malnutrition is a serious concern in older populations. Simple screening approaches are needed to identify signs of early nutritional risk in older people, to allow intervention before overt malnutrition develops, along with the poorer health outcomes associated with it, such as sarcopaenia and frailty. The main aim of this study was to compare nutrition risk scores, calculated from the DETERMINE Checklist ('Determine Your Nutritional Health', also known as the Nutrition Screening Initiative Checklist), with physical function variables in a group of community-dwelling older adults. Another aim was to assess the prevalence of nutrition risk using the DETERMINE and the MUST (Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool). METHODS: Participants of the Hertfordshire Cohort Study (HCS) were recruited and visited at home by a trained researcher. Self-reported physical function was assessed using the SF-36 PF (Short Form-36 Physical Function) scale. The Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) was performed, which included the assessment of gait speed, chair rise time and standing balance. Handgrip strength was measured using a Jamar dynamometer. Frailty was assessed according to the presence of at least three of the following Fried frailty criteria: unintentional weight loss, weakness, self-reported exhaustion, slow gait speed and low physical activity. Nutrition risk scores were calculated from the DETERMINE checklist (range 0-21). Nutritional risk was also assessed using the MUST. Analyses were adjusted for sex, age, age left education and number of comorbidities. RESULTS: In the study, 176 participants (94 men and 82 women), median age 83.3 (IQR 81.5-85.7) years, were assessed. Almost half (47%) scored either 'moderate' (score 3-5) or 'high' (score ≥ 6) nutritional risk (9% were at high risk), using the DETERMINE checklist, whereas 8% were at risk using the MUST. Higher nutrition risk scores, calculated from DETERMINE, were associated with poorer self-reported physical function (difference in SF-36 PF score: - 0.36, 95% CI (- 0.60, - 0.12) SD per unit increase in nutrition risk score, P = 0.004) and higher odds of being frail (odds ratio Fried frailty: 2.23, 95% CI (1.15, 4.33), P = 0.017). There were no significant associations between DETERMINE nutrition risk scores and the other variables examined. CONCLUSION: Cross-sectional associations between higher nutrition risk scores, assessed from the DETERMINE checklist, and poorer self-reported physical function and greater likelihood of frailty suggest that this screening tool may have utility for screening older populations. Prospective studies are required to explore the ability of the tool to predict poor physical function and frailty, though these data suggest it has potential for early, simple detection of nutritional problems in community-living older adults.

Original publication




Journal article


Aging clin exp res

Publication Date



Community, Nutritional risk, Older adults, Physical function, Screening tool