Fecal incontinence as a moderator between dietary intake and depressive symptoms among a sample of older adults obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

Alwerdt J1,2, Small BJ2. Aging Ment Health. 2017 Nov 24:1-11. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2017.1399348. [Epub ahead of print]
Author information

1 a Center For Healthy Aging , The Pennsylvania State University , University Park , PA , USA.

2 b School of Aging Studies , The University of South Florida , Tampa , FL , USA.


OBJECTIVES: Many studies have established a relationship between diet and mental health, as well as the importance of bowel health. Further, with increased evidence of a gut-brain bidirectional relationship, an indication of dysbiosis as a potential moderator between diet and depression may be a viable target for future interventions. The current study investigated the relationship between diet and depressive symptoms (DS) among older adults, as well as gender, and whether a symptom of dysbiosis, fecal incontinence severity (FIS), moderated this relationship.

METHOD: Using moderated regressions, we examined whether FIS moderates the relationship between diet and DS while controlling for covariates in the overall sample (N = 1918), as well as among the male (n = 841) and female sample (n = 1077). The dietary variables were reduced using a factor analysis.

RESULTS: Results indicated significant moderating effects of FIS between Component 4 and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PFA) in the overall sample. Component 4, protein, carbohydrates, and alcohol were significant in males only while PFA only in females. Further analysis of protein/carbohydrate ratio groups indicated significant differences within males. Higher scores of FIS were related to higher DS and less consumption of Component 4 nutrients, PFA, and protein. Males that consumed higher protein and carbohydrates resulted in lower DS with increased FIS.

CONCLUSION: Outcomes from the current study provide further evidence of the importance of healthy bowel function and the potential of modifying the diet to improve DS in older adults.

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