Did you ever wonder whether the standard food served to older adults or even the younger and middled-aged population with a variety of disabilities in a variety of Sacramento nursing homes raises or lowers cholesterol and the risks of inflammation? For example, how much tomato juice or tomatoes are served in some nursing homes? Sacramento is called the big tomato because of the high production of tomatoes in the Sacramento, Davis, and Central Valley areas of California. But how often are tomatoes given to the older adult population in general?
And how many servings of tomatoes and/or tomato juice are given to older adults and others in some nursing homes? Not as much as you’d think…but it’s a superfood. And other superfoods such as cabbage also may not served often, except for a tiny serving of cole slaw now and then in some skilled nursing homes. But if you don’t observe, ask, and have a meal, how would you know? As Sacramento ages with the rest of the nation, the proportion of white elderly in some nursing homes declines while the minority proportion increases.
Whites, having greater economic resources, may be finding better alternatives, according to the latest study. But when it comes to standard nursing home food, just what quality of nutrition is in the meals older adults are being served? And can they chew the food if many have missing teeth or similar problems with foods? Because of budgets and costs, instead of growing foods on the grounds of skilled nursing homes, are patients in some nursing homes being served too much white rice, bread, potatoes, and pasta and not enough lycopene-containing vegetables?
Does the food contain too much salt or other chemicals that normally come with processed, packaged or frozen foods? For highly nutritious food, does a nursing home resident have to pay a high fee? And what happens to the poor elderly as far as what they eat? What foods are served to the poorest senior citizens in some nursing homes in Sacramento and also in other cities?
Did you ever walk through the lunches at many different types of nursing homes in Sacramento to see what standard nursing home faire people eat–such as white rice instead of brown rice or lots of pasta, for example lasagna served in the dining halls of many assisted living apartment complexes and various nursing homes? Why are older adults in some, not all nursing homes, being served so much pasta and white rice and so little tomatoes in this tomato growing area of California?
You’d also have to look at nursing homes serving specific ethnic populations to see what these patients are being served, for example, lots of white rice or bread or various carbohydrates and starches such as potatoes. Not many places serve brown or black rice, deeply pigmented beans, and sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Are older adults getting too many sugars and starches because some may crave sweets? And why do so many people with various types of dementia crave sweets? Is it because they have been addicted to starchy fillers and sugar most of their lives?
Few serve ‘black’ foods, that is foods deeply pigmented such as black rice, black beans, squid ink-cooked seafood, dark purple vegetables, and darkly colored leafy vegetables such as kale, for the vitamin K content. Much of the spinach is cooked, and few nursing homes serve collards and mustard greens or other so-called ‘superfoods.’ Would the lack of lots of servings of tomatoes be related to the changes in the ethnicity in the nursing homes? After all, even in a largely Hispanic population, you’d have lots of tomatoes in the salsa, and perhaps mango, papaya and chutney for other ethnic groups.
What’s important to remember about tomatoes for any age group is that it lowers cholesterol. There’s a study that showed drinking 13 ounces of tomato juice daily for three weeks lowered LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels by almost 13 percent.
It’s not only the lycopene in the tomatoes that encourages increased bone mass to develop. It’s another substance in tomatoes called 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid. That substance also lowers fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream. See the abstract of the scientific study, “9-oxo-10(E),12(E)-octadecadienoic acid derived from tomato is a potent PPAR α agonist to decrease triglyceride accumulation in mouse primary hepatocytes.”
According to the study, tomato is one of the most common crops worldwide and contains many beneficial compounds that improve abnormalities of lipid metabolism. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the effect of tomato on lipid metabolism is unclear.
In fact, this substance in tomatoes can help to ameliorate certain abnormalities of lipid metabolism. To identify such active compounds, scientists screened fractions of tomato extracts. One fraction, RF57 inhibited cellular triglyceride accumulation in the hepatocytes. These findings suggest that tomatoes containing 9-oxo-ODA that acts on PPARα are valuable for ameliorating abnormalities of lipid metabolism. So why aren’t more nursing homes in Sacramento serving more tomatoes or other vegetables that contain similar substances? They could hide the vegetables in smoothies. Is it all about cost of food when Sacramento grows lots of tomatoes–for export and canning?
But which nursing home gives three or more servings a week of tomatoes? Does any nursing home in Sacramento encourage people there to plant tomatoes in the back yard of the nursing home to cut costs for this superfood? What you’d be likely to hear is that tomatoes are nightshade vegetables that cause arthritis to flare up with lots of pain for some people who are sensitive to tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers. So many older adults avoid lycopene-containing vegetables. But other vegetables contain lycopene, such as squash.
Could the nutrition issue in nursing homes be due to residents becoming more black, Hispanic, and Asian than white?
When Sacramentans think of ethnic nursing homes, such as those serving Asian communities, the first thing that jumps into minds regarding foods is that ethnic foods may be served because they are familiar and traditional. You’d think of seafood and sea vegetables in Asian homes, perhaps more salsa in Hispanic homes, or kosher food in Jewish homes….But it’s not like that, well not exactly.
Nursing homes in the USA are shrinking
Nursing homes in the United States are shrinking and their residents are becoming proportionately more black, more Hispanic, more Asian, and less white, according to a new study by Brown University researchers. The nationwide trend, reflected in metropolitan areas from New York to Los Angeles, results from changing demographics and disparities in what people can afford. The study is published in the July edition of Health Affairs. According to a Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island study, in the last decade, minorities have poured into nursing homes at a time when whites have left in even greater numbers, according to a new, Brown University study that suggests a racial disparity in elder care options in the United States. See the July 7, 2011 news release, “New disparity in nursing homes: Whites leave, minorities enter.”
At first blush the analysis, published July 7 in the journal Health Affairs, suggests that elderly blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are gaining greater access to nursing home care. But the growing proportion of minorities in nursing homes is coming about partly because they do not have the same access to more desirable forms of care as wealthier whites do, said the study’s lead author Zhanlian Feng, assistant professor of community health in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
According to that news release from Brown University, “As policymakers ‘rebalance’ elder care, they should account for disparities. If elderly whites are using more desirable alternatives, policy may need to promote those alternatives for minority elders
too. They are really the last resort. Most elders would rather stay in their homes, or some place like home, but not a nursing home unless they have to.”
The new analysis shows that between 1999 and 2008 the nation’s nursing home population shrank by 6.1 percent to just over 1.2 million people. In that time period the number of whites in nursing homes decreased by 10.2 percent nationwide, while the number of blacks rose 10.8 percent, the number of Hispanics rose by 54.9 percent and the number of Asians rose by 54.1 percent. The study also looked at nursing home population changes in the top 10 metropolitan areas for each minority, according to the news release.
Prior research has shown that the nursing homes in predominately minority areas are often of lower quality and are more likely to close, while assisted living facilities are more likely to be built in areas where residents have high incomes.
In New York, a top 10 metropolitan area for blacks, Hispanics and Asians, nursing home residents from these groups increased 22 percent, 84 percent and 40 percent, respectively. In Los Angeles/Long Beach, the increases were 1 percent for blacks, 41 percent for Hispanics and 56 percent among Asians.
With different rates in different cities, the challenge facing policymakers is not only national, but also local, the researchers said, according to the news release. “Efforts to reduce disparities should target both communities and facilities with high concentrations of minority residents,” scientists wrote in Health Affairs.
The National Institute on Aging supported the research. The moral of this story is to ask yourself, did you ever taste the standard meals served daily in most nursing homes? And where are the tomatoes, cabbage, and other superfoods that can be grown in the backyard of nursing home, even by some of the residents? These foods might include tomatoes, cabbage, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, and other deeply pigmented vegetables and leafy greens.