Nursing homes can assess nutritional status by measuring residents' calves rather than body mass index, researchers find

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Nursing home caregivers can get a good idea of residents' nutritional status by measuring their calves rather than calculating their body mass index with height and weight, according to recently published research findings.

The six-question short-form Mini Nutritional Assessment has been widely recognized as a useful tool for determining whether a nursing home resident is malnourished, noted the research team based in Turkey. However, the short-form MNA requires body mass index, and it can be hard to get the height and weight of bedridden or mobility-impaired elderly people. Certain chronic degenerative diseases also skew the relationship between height and BMI, the researchers stated.

Calf circumference has been proposed as an alternative to the BMI measurement in the short-form nutritional assessment. To test this, the researchers conducted a study involving about 240 cognitively functioning residents in seven Turkish nursing homes. Calves were measured at their widest point, and three points were awarded for measurements of 31 centimeters or more. On the short-form assessment, a score of 12 or higher indicates that someone is well nourished.

Both the body mass index and calf circumference versions of the short-form evaluation were similarly effective and correlated well with the full assessment, the investigators found. However, the short-form versions tended to underestimate nutritional status, they noted.

Measuring calf circumference is a “good substitute” when BMI cannot be established, the authors concluded.

Findings appear in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.

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