Background: Relatively few studies have considered the dietary preferences of the oldest elderly individuals. As persons aged over 100 years have survived for a particularly long period of time, the dietary habits of centenarians might be significant factors influencing late-life health.
Methods: We compared the dietary practices of 94 centenarians living in Tokyo metropolitan with those of 30 other healthy elderly people (older controls) and 98 healthy middle-aged subjects (younger controls). Dietary intake was recorded for 3 successive days and was classified in terms of 18 food groups: cereals, potatoes, sugars, sweets, fats, nuts, legumes, fishes, meats, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, algae, beverages, seasonings, and processed foods. Dietary patterns were classified by a k-means cluster analysis based on the proportional intake of each food group. Each pattern identified was evaluated nutritionally.
Results: While the daily intake of protein, fat, carbohydrate, and total calories was highest in younger controls and lowest in centenarians, no significant differences were evident when intake was evaluated relative to body weight. Four clusters of subjects preferred beverages, vegetables, dairy products, and cereals, respectively. Preference for beverages was most frequent in younger controls while preference for vegetables was relatively frequent in older controls. A pattern preferring dairy products was particularly characteristic of centenarians. Dairy products were advantageous for calcium intake while a preference for vegetables was of great advantage – assisting in the intake of vitamins and iron.
Conclusions: Japanese centenarians showed a preference for dairy products which, therefore, means that their calcium intake is high.