Malnutrition or frailty? Overlap and evidence gaps in the diagnosis and treatment of frailty and malnutrition
There is increasing awareness of the detrimental health impact of frailty on older adults and of the high prevalence of malnutrition in this segment of the population. Experts in these 2 arenas need to be cognizant of the overlap in constructs, diagnosis, and treatment of frailty and malnutrition. There is a lack of consensus regarding the definition of malnutrition and how it should be assessed. While there is consensus on the definition of frailty, there is no agreement on how it should be measured. Separate assessment tools exist for both malnutrition and frailty; however, there is intersection between concepts and measures. This narrative review highlights some of the intersections within these screening/assessment tools, including weight loss/decreased body mass, functional capacity, and weakness (handgrip strength). The potential for identification of a minimal set of objective measures to identify, or at least consider risk for both conditions, is proposed. Frailty and malnutrition have also been shown to result in similar negative health outcomes and consequently common treatment strategies have been studied, including oral nutritional supplements. While many of the outcomes of treatment relate to both concepts of frailty and malnutrition, research questions are typically focused on the frailty concept, leading to possible gaps or missed opportunities in understanding the effect of complementary interventions on malnutrition. A better understanding of how these conditions overlap may improve treatment strategies for frail, malnourished, older adults.
Resource: Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017 May;42(5):449-458.