Usual nutrient intakes and diet quality among United States older adults participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program compared with income-eligible nonparticipants


Qin, Y.; Cowan, A.E.; Bailey, R.L.; Jun, S.; Eicher-Miller, H.A.


Background: The proportion of older adults with food insecurity at 8% has increased faster than that of the general United States population from 2001 to 2017. Many low-income food-insecure older adults rely on food-assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), for meeting energy and nutrient needs, whereas others are eligible but do not participate. Neither updated nutrient intake estimates nor potential differences in meeting the Dietary Reference Intakes from foods alone and with dietary supplements (DS) among low-income older adults using or eligible for SNAP are known. Objectives: This study assessed and compared national estimates of usual nutrient adequacy and dietary quality of United States older adults using SNAP and income-eligible nonparticipants. Methods: Usual dietary intake was estimated among older adults (≥60 y; n = 2582) in the 2007–2016 NHANES cross-sectional national survey. Data on food-assistance participation and eligibility (poverty-income-ratio ≤130%), DS use, and ≥24-h dietary recalls were used. The NCI method (Markov Chain Monte Carlo approach) was applied to estimate mean usual nutrient intakes, proportion of inadequate nutrient intake, and dietary quality using the 2015 Healthy Eating Index. Results: Neither usual nutrient intake from dietary and total sources nor dietary quality differed between older adult SNAP participants and eligible nonparticipants. Low dietary quality and high percentage of inadequate intake for several nutrients were apparent among both groups, especially from food sources alone, including vitamins A (56%), C (55%), D (97%), E (99%), calcium (73%), and magnesium (74%), but rates were attenuated when DS were also considered (i.e., 36% reduced risk for vitamin D inadequacy). Conclusions: Diet quality and usual nutrient intake among older adult SNAP participants and eligible nonparticipants were poor, but DS lowered the risk of nutrient inadequacy. Future policies and programs should focus on improving the intake of vitamins A, C, D, E, calcium, and magnesium and dietary quality for all older adults. © 2023 American Society for Nutrition


; ; ; ; ; ;