In the quest for better health among older farmers, a recent study in Nutrients dove into the connection between legume intake and cardiometabolic risk (CMR) factors.
As time marches on, chronic health conditions become more prevalent in our older population. A unique challenge faced by older farmers is the tendency to skip meals due to their demanding farming activities. This, coupled with less diverse diets, compounds their health challenges. South Africa, in particular, grapples with a high prevalence of hypertension among older individuals. The impact of hypertension isn't just confined to health; it spills over into income, farming operations, and overall well-being. The repercussions of hypertension are far-reaching, from cramps and fatigue to joint pain, insomnia, memory loss, and eye problems. These issues contribute significantly to elevated rates of morbidity and mortality in older farmers. Therefore, addressing the dietary habits of older farmers could be a key factor in enhancing their chances of survival.
Enter legumes – the unsung heroes in the realm of nutrition. Packed with protein, fiber, and essential minerals, legumes boast a host of health benefits. Regularly incorporating legumes into the diet might be the missing link in preventing age-associated disorders and improving overall CMR factors. In essence, the study suggests that a simple dietary adjustment, such as increasing legume intake, could be a game-changer for the well-being of our seasoned farmers.
In a groundbreaking initiative, researchers embarked on a mission to enhance the well-being of older farmers grappling with chronic hypertension, elevated glucose levels, and cholesterol issues. Their weapon of choice? A carefully crafted food and nutrition education program aimed at elevating legume intake.
The study, conducted in an agricultural ecology hub station, identified a pocket with a high prevalence of cardiometabolic risk (CMR) factors and a notable scarcity of legumes in the diets of older individuals. Enter the participants—farmers committed to embracing change and cultivating legumes on their farms. The intervention unfolded in both experimental (EG) and control (CG) groups, each chosen based on specific criteria. The EG, armed with a newfound commitment to grow legumes, delved into a comprehensive education program. Meanwhile, the CG, untouched by legume-centric education, received guidance on maintaining a balanced diet.
A variety of legumes, from cowpeas to chickpeas, were introduced to the EG to diversify their dietary landscape. EG farmers were tasked with consuming 125 grams of legumes three to five times a week over a 12-week period, while the CG adhered to their customary dietary routines, free from intervention or education.
Anthropometric and sociodemographic data, along with blood samples measuring glucose and cholesterol levels, were collected. Dietary intake was meticulously assessed through 24-hour intake recalls and food frequency questionnaires, both before and after the intervention. To gauge dietary diversity, a dietary diversity score (DDS) was computed, reflecting the variety of food groups consumed weekly. The crux of the study unfolded as a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) compared pre- and post-intervention CMR variables between the EG and CG.
In a cohort of 103 participants, comprising 53 in the experimental group (EG) and 50 in the control group (CG), ages averaged at 63.3 and 67.9, respectively. Females dominated the sample, displaying a noteworthy surge in post-intervention energy intake. While males also experienced an uptick in energy intake, statistical significance eluded this change.
Digging into the specifics, a significant post-intervention uptick in macronutrient intake (protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates) was observed among females. However, for males, these changes didn't reach statistical significance. Interestingly, dietary diversity scores (DDS) remained unchanged for both groups pre- and post-intervention.
The real standout was the legume food group diversity score (FGDS), skyrocketing from 2.4 pre-intervention to an impressive 5.7 post-intervention. Notably, the EG lagged behind the CG in FGDS for the three food groups after the intervention.
Exploring cardiometabolic risk (CMR) variables, diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in the EG retained its significantly lower status pre-intervention. Systolic blood pressure, however, exhibited a notable difference between the EG and CG post-intervention. Blood glucose levels witnessed a significant improvement in the EG, alongside a commendable reduction in mean total cholesterol (TC). Hyperglycemia in the EG plummeted from 38% to a mere 9% post-intervention, a stark contrast to the CG's stable TC levels.
In conclusion, the findings illuminate significant strides in nutrient adequacy ratios (NARs), legume FGDS, DBP, and glucose and cholesterol levels within the EG. To combat CMR concerns, a call for heightened surveillance and empowering older farmers in sustainable legume production and consumption is evident. The broader implication is clear: interventions centered on legumes can propel communities towards achieving sustainable development goals through community-based programs.