This national investigation of older Australians was conducted to explore the relationship between their health, lifestyle, use of dietary supplements and nutritional risk. The objective of this study was to examine the extent of poor health status and nutritional risk among Australians aged 65 years and over, as determined by the Australian Nutrition Screening Initiative. The 12 statements that comprise the Australian Nutrition Screening Initiative (ANSI) were incorporated in a comprehensive, self-administered national postal survey designed to elicit information on the health and lifestyle practices of older Australians. In 2001, data were obtained from 1,263 individuals (641 males, 622 females) aged between 65 and 98 years, randomly chosen from the 2000 Australian Electoral roll. According to the ANSI, 59% (n=747) of the sample was at risk of poor nutritional status as well as poor health status. The most frequently occurring risk factors were; taking 3 or more different prescription or over-the-counter drugs each day (44%), having an illness that led to changes to the kind and/or amount of food consumed (34%), eating alone most of the time (28%), not eating dairy products most days (18%), and consuming 3 or more alcoholic beverages each day (18%). Gender differences were observed for several ANSI statements. These results suggest that because the ANSI may exaggerate the true extent of nutritional risk among community living older individuals it is of limited value as a screening tool per se. The future of the ANSI should be dependent on verifying its reliability as a public health measure
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