Adult Lifetime Diet Quality and Physical Performance in Older Age: Findings From a British Birth Cohort.
Robinson SM., Westbury LD., Cooper R., Kuh D., Ward K., Syddall HE., Sayer AA., Cooper C.
Background: Current evidence that links "healthier" dietary patterns to better measured physical performance is mainly from older populations; little is known about the role of earlier diet. We examined adult diet quality in relation to physical performance at age 60-64 years. Methods: Diet quality was defined using principal component analysis of dietary data collected at age 36, 43, 53, and 60-64. Throughout adulthood, diets of higher quality were characterized by higher consumption of fruit, vegetables, and wholegrain bread. Diet quality scores calculated at each age indicated compliance with this pattern. Physical performance was assessed using chair rise, timed-up-and-go, and standing balance tests at age 60-64. The analysis sample included 969 men and women. Results: In gender-adjusted analyses, higher diet quality at each age was associated with better measured physical performance (all p < .01 for each test), although some associations were attenuated after adjustment for covariates. Diet quality scores were highly correlated in adulthood (0.44 ≤ r ≤ 0.67). However, conditional models showed that higher diet quality at age 60-64 (than expected from scores at younger ages), was associated with faster chair rise speed and with longer standing balance time (adjusted: 0.08 [95% CI: 0.02, 0.15] and 0.07 [0.01, 0.14] SD increase in chair rise speed and balance time, respectively, per SD increase in conditional diet quality; both p < .05). Conclusions: Higher diet quality across adulthood is associated with better physical performance in older age. Current diet quality may be particularly important for physical performance, suggesting potential for improvements in diet in early older age.