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Nutrients and Aging

Lawrence J. Whalley

This chapter provides a brief outline of some research methods now widely used in nutritional gerontology. First, the topic is placed in an historical perspective stressing major influences of the last century on public and professional thinking about nutritional health. These socio-cultural aspects of the discipline are shown to be relevant to contemporary research sampling from populations drawn from heterogeneous nutritional backgrounds. The five main types of study (ecological, cross-sectional, case-control, cohort, and experimental) in nutritional gerontology are specified. Issues in measurement are addressed in terms of the need to establish measures of reliability and validity of intake of specific nutrients, the purpose of energy adjustment, and the advantages of dietary pattern recognition over intake of single nutrients. The use of biomarkers is mentioned in the context of a lack of gold standards—including anthropometrics—of measurement of food consumption. Research methods in gene-nutrient interaction are considered in terms of nutrient regulation of gene transcription, nutrient damage to DNA, nutrient protection of DNA, and interactions between specific nutrients, energy regulation, and aging genes. The chapter concludes with a brief note about the role of nutrients as environmental cues of specific steps in developmental programming (including aging).

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