Background: Nutritional status and food insecurity are associated with frailty in the general U.S. population, yet little is known about this in the aging population of people living with HIV (PLWH).
Objectives: Given the potential importance of nutrition and the amenability to intervention, we examined the association between nutritional status, food insecurity, and frailty in PLWH.
Design: Cross sectional study.
Setting: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Participants: 50 PLWH, age ≥45 years, recruited from a cohort study examining risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Measurements: Frailty, duration of HIV, use of antiretroviral therapy, disease history, food insecurity, physical function, and physical activity were assessed by questionnaire. Dietary intake was assessed using 3-day food records. Blood was drawn for CD4+ cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and lipid levels. Physical measurements included height, weight, and skinfold thickness.
Results: The prevalence of frailty was 16% (n=8), 44% were pre-frail (n=22) and 40% were not frail (n=20). The number of reported difficulties with 20 activities of daily living was highest in frail (mean 10.4±3.9 SD), followed by pre-frail (6.5±4.6), and lowest in not frail participants (2.0±2.3). Seven (88%) of the frail PLWH lost weight with an average weight loss of 22.9 pounds; 6 (75%) reported unintentional weight loss, and all 6 of these met the frailty criteria for weight loss of 10 or more pounds. Nine (45%) of the not frail PLWH reported losing weight with an average weight loss of 6.2 pounds; 5 (23%) reported unintentional weight loss of <10 pounds. Frail PLWH were more likely to report being food insecure than not frail PLWH (63% vs. 10%, p=0.02), and tended to have lower energy intake than not frail PLWH.
Conclusion: Research is needed on targeted interventions to improve food security and activities of daily living in PLWH for both the prevention and improvement of frailty.
Keywords: Frailty; diet; food insecurity; physical function.