Eating alone linked to angina, poorer nutrition in older women
Older women who primarily ate alone were more likely to have angina and worse nutrition than those who ate with others, according to a South Korean study published in the journal Menopause.
“Traditionally, eating with others has been the norm in South Korea due to its strong collective culture,” Han-Gyo Choi, PhD, RN, of the Catholic University of Korea’s College of Nursing in Seoul, and colleagues wrote. “However, a growing number of people are eating alone due to increased numbers of nuclear families and single-person households.”
Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic and food delivery services have only added to this, the researchers said.
Previously, eating alone was found to negatively affect mental and physical health, so the researchers aimed to establish how eating alone is related to CVD and nutrition.
Choi and colleagues analyzed data from 590 menopausal women aged 65 years or older who self-reported sociodemographic characteristics, health behavior characteristics, nutritional status and incidence of CVD and risk factors in the 2016 Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey VII-1.
Of women who ate more than two meals a day alone (EA), 79.7% were widowed, and 81.1% of women who ate more than two meals a day with others (EO) lived with their spouses. The EA group had a significantly lower monthly average household income than the EO group ($1,597.10 vs. $2,253.56; P = .011).
Women in the EO group were more aware of nutrition labels than those in the EA group (43.3% vs. 29.5%; P = .012). They also more often used nutrition labels (8.5% vs. 3.8%; P = .014) and said nutrition labels affected their food choices (7% vs. 1.7%; P = .016). Smoking, perceived stress, alcohol consumption and aerobic activity did not significantly differ between the two groups.
The EO group had a significantly higher energy intake than the EA group, consuming 1,472.52 kcal, whereas the EA group only consumed 1,357.67 kcal (P = .018). They also had higher intakes of carbohydrates (264.15 g vs. 243.48 g; P = .012), dietary fiber (21.23 g vs. 18.91 g; P = .027), sodium (2,647 mg vs. 2,329.73 mg; P = .025) and potassium (2,521.1 mg vs. 2,213.58 mg; P = .013).
The researchers also found that the incidence rate of angina was 2.58 times higher (95% CI, 1.2-5.55) in the EA group after adjusting for age, income, marital status, aerobic activity and awareness, and the use and impact of nutrition labels.
The study’s limitations included its cross-sectional design, the researchers’ reliance on self-reported data and potential confounding factors may not have been accounted for in the analysis, Choi and colleagues wrote. They recommended a prospective study to investigate the relationship between eating alone and CVD risk.
“Results of this study demonstrated the importance of an eating companion in older women, which might be useful for establishing health care and welfare policies to consider nutrition education and cardiovascular disease screening for older women who mainly eat alone,” the researchers wrote.