Q.: My 82-year-old father just loves bacon and has several slices every morning. Since Mom died last year, I can't seem to get him to eat a healthier diet. Any suggestions?
A: Widowers can take the path of least resistance - foods that they love to eat and are easy to prepare, but may not be healthy for them.
Too much processed foods can be among those choices.
A study of more than 400,000 participants by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers finds a strong association between the consumption of red meat, particularly when the meat is processed, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes that strikes more than one of four senior citizens.
The study also shows that replacing red meat with healthier proteins, such as low-fat dairy, nuts or whole grains, can significantly lower the risk.
This study is among the first to estimate the risk reduction associated with substituting healthier protein choices for red meat.
After adjusting for age, body mass index (BMI), and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the researchers found that a daily 100-gram serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 19 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
They also found that one daily serving of half that quantity of processed meat - 50 grams (for example, one hot dog or sausage or two slices of bacon) - was associated with a 51 percent increased risk.
"Clearly, the results from this study have huge public health implications given the rising type 2 diabetes epidemic and increasing consumption of red meats worldwide," said senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, who co-authored the study with An Pan, research fellow. "The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein."
The researchers found that, for an individual who eats one daily serving of red meat:
Substituting one serving of nuts per day was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes;
Substituting low-fat dairy, a 17 percent lower risk; and
Substituting whole grains, a 23 percent lower risk.
Loneliness can impact widows and widowers like your father. Consider contacting your local Home Instead Senior Care office to discuss how they might help.
And visit www.meals andcompanionship, for health tips, health lifestyle options and recipes.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or visit www.homeinstead.com.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.