BACKGROUND: Malnutrition and poor physical performance are both conditions that increase in prevalence with age; however, their interrelation in a clinically relevant population has not been thoroughly studied.
AIMS: This study aimed to determine the strength of the association between malnutrition and measures of both static and dynamic physical performance in a cohort of geriatric outpatients.
METHODS: This cross-sectional study included 286 older adults (mean age 81.8, SD 7.2 years, and 40.6% male) who were referred to geriatric outpatient mobility clinics. The presence of malnutrition was determined using the Short Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire (SNAQ, cut-off ≥ 2 points). Measures of dynamic physical performance included timed up and go (TUG), 4-m walk test, and chair stand test (CST). Static performance encompassed balance tests and hand grip strength (HGS). Physical performance was standardized into sex-specific Z-scores. The association between malnutrition and each individual measure of physical performance was assessed using linear regression analysis.
RESULTS: 19.9% of the cohort was identified as malnourished. Malnutrition was most strongly associated with CST and gait speed; less strong but significant associations were found between malnutrition and TUG. There was no significant association between malnutrition and HGS or balance.
DISCUSSION: Physical performance was associated with malnutrition, specifically, dynamic rather than static measures. This may reflect muscle power being more impacted by nutritional status than muscle strength; however, this needs to be further addressed.
CONCLUSIONS: Malnutrition is associated with dynamic physical performance in geriatric outpatients, which should inform diagnosis and treatment/prevention strategies.