Study: Malnutrition Contributes to Fall Risk in Older Adults

May 22, 2019

Falls in older adults increase the risk of hospitalization and nursing home admission, as well as morbidity and mortality. According to a new study in the May issue of JAMDA, older people who are malnourished or at risk for malnourishment are more likely to experience a fall.

In “Nutritional Status, Body Mass Index, and the Risk of Falls in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” the authors conducted a literature review to evaluate the relative risk of experiencing falls and recurrent falls on the basis on nutritional status. They used the combination of four search themes: Body Mass Index (BMI), falls (outcome), older people (study population), and risk (study design). They determined that both nutritional status and BMI are associated with the risk of falls in community-dwelling older people. Specifically, being malnourished or at risk of malnutrition may increase the potential for falls. The lowest risk, the authors determined, is for those individuals with BMIs between 24.5 and 30.0.

The study found no significant association between malnutrition and recurrent falls. This is most likely, said the researchers, because of the low number of studies and subjects involved in their analysis. They determined that BMI also was not associated with recurrent fall risk. However, they stressed, “Undoubtedly, the impact of BMI on recurrent falls can be affected by the consequences of the first episode. Falls in older people can often limit mobility and lead to a less active lifestyle because of fall-related injuries or fear of falling.”

In general, the study concluded, nutritional status should be considered when assessing the risk for falls in community-dwelling older adults. The authors suggested, “Future research could focus on the independent effects that maintenance of a good nutritional status and a healthy body weight might have on the risk of falls.”

This study was conducted by researchers in the Department of Medicine, Geriatrics Division, University of Padova, Italy; Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Aging Research Center, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University; Stockholm Gerontology Research Center; Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden; National Research Council, Neuroscience Institute, Padova, Italy; Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ; Department of Nutritional Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Hospices Civils de Lyon, Pole Information Medicale Evaluation Recherche, Unite de Recherche Clinique, Lyon, France; Nutrition and Dietetics Group, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY; Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL; and Universite de Lyon, EA Health Services and Performance Research (HESPER), Lyon, France.

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JAMDA is the official journal of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. JAMDA publishes peer-reviewed articles including original studies, reviews, clinical experience articles, case reports, and more, on all topics more important to post-acute and long-term care medicine. Visit for more information.

About the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine is the only medical specialty society representing the community of over 50,000 medical directors, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other practitioners working in the various post-acute and long-term care (PALTC) settings. Dedicated to defining and improving quality, we advance our mission through timely professional development, evidence-based clinical guidance, and tireless advocacy on behalf of members, patients, families, and staff. Visit for more information.