BACKGROUND: Worldwide we are facing a serious demographic challenge due to the dramatic growth of the population over 60 years. It is expected that the proportion of this population will nearly double from 12 to 22 %, between 2015 and 2050. This demographic shift comes with major health and socio-economic concerns. Nutrition is a fundamental determinant of both health and disease and its role in extending a healthy lifespan is the object of considerable research. Notably, malnutrition is one of the main threats to health and quality of life among the elderly. Therefore, knowledge about nutritional status among the elderly is essential for the promotion and maintenance of healthy ageing and to support the development of health protection policies and equity in elderly health care.
METHODS: This is a nationwide nutrition survey of the Portuguese population over 65 years old, with data collection through face-to-face interviews. A representative and random sample of community dwelling elderly and nursing homes residents will be obtained by multistage sampling stratified per main Portuguese regions, sex and age groups. Minimum sample size was estimated to be 2077 elderly (979 in the community and 1098 in nursing homes). Data will be collected on food habits and eating patterns, nutritional status, food insecurity, lifestyle, self-rated general health status and self-reported diseases, functionality, loneliness, cognitive function, emotional status and demographic and socio-economic characterization.
DISCUSSION: This is the first national survey to evaluate the prevalence of nutritional risk and malnutrition of the Portuguese population above 65 years old, including those living in nursing homes. It will allow the identification of population subgroups of elderly with increased odds of malnutrition and nutritional risk. In addition, this survey will contribute to the identification of psychosocial and clinical predictors of malnutrition among elderly, which is an important risk factor for other devastating medical conditions.