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Adult Lifetime Diet Quality and Physical Performance in Older Age: Findings from a British Birth Cohort

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sian RobinsonORCiD, Professor Rachel CooperORCiD, Professor Avan SayerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robinson SM, Westbury LD, Cooper R, Kuh D, Ward K, Syddall HE, Sayer AA, Cooper C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences

Year: 2018

Volume: 73

Issue: 11

Pages: 1532-1537

Print publication date: 01/11/2018

Online publication date: 13/10/2017

Acceptance date: 12/09/2017

Date deposited: 19/01/2022

ISSN (print): 1079-5006

ISSN (electronic): 1758-535X

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glx179

PubMed id: 29040508


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Funder referenceFunder name
UK Medical Research Council