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Nutrition and handgrip strength of older adults in rural Malawi

  • Dorothy M Chilima (a1) and Suraiya J Ismail (a1)

Abstract

Objective:

To examine the relationship between the nutritional status and handgrip strength of older people in rural Malawi.

Design:

Cross-sectional study.

Setting:

Lilongwe rural, Malawi, situated approximately 35–50 km from the city.

Subjects:

Ninety seven males and 199 females participated in this study.

Methods:

Selected anthropometric measurements were taken and nutrition indices were computed using standard equations. Handgrip strength was measured using an electronic grip strength dynamometer.

Results:

The mean handgrip strength (in kg) for men was significantly higher than for women (28.0±5.9 vs. 21.7±4.5). In addition, there was a significant decline in handgrip strength with age in both sexes. Furthermore, handgrip strength was positively correlated to the following nutritional status indicators: BMI (r = 0.40 in males and r = 0.34 in females), mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) (r = 0.45 in males and r = 0.38 in females) and arm-muscle area (AMA) (r = 0.39 in males and r = 0.37 in females). After controlling for potential confounders, namely sex, height and age, the correlations between handgrip strength and the nutrition indices were still significant.

Conclusion:

The results of this study support the hypothesis that poor nutritional status is associated with poor handgrip strength. Malawian males had both lower handgrip strength and lower arm muscle area than their counterparts from industrialised countries. However, Malawian females had similar handgrip strength despite lower arm muscle area, in comparison with women from industrialised countries, reflecting perhaps their higher level of physical activity. Further studies are required to determine whether by alleviating nutritional problems a concomitant improvement in handgrip strength can be obtained.

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References

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