Although the proportion of elderly blacks is much smaller than that of white populations in Africa, it is increasing. Since the vast majority of blacks in Africa are in poor economic circumstances, questions arise as to how well they manage, particularly regarding their eating habits and nutritional state. On the one hand, the limited information available indicates major shortfalls compared to international dietary allowances of nutrients. Yet, outwardly, elderly Africans appear to cope better than would be expected. Unfortunately, no cross-sectional nor prospective studies have been undertaken on representative groups of African elderly. In view of the increasing poverty of the populations of most African countries, it would be of value to learn from nutritional and clinical studies what are minimum food intakes that are still consistent with everyday good health.
This article was published, in part, in the South African Journal of Gerontology (1998;7(2):27-29) and is repeated here, with permission from the Editor. Gratitude for financial support is expressed to the South African Institute for Medical Research Foundation, the South African Medical Research Council, and the Freda and David Becker Fund. Mrs. B.F. Walker and Mrs. F. Adam helped in the library work and typing of the article.
FIGURE 1 Dr. Alexander R. P. Walker has been involved in research throughout several decades on interethnic populations in Africa, with special reference to the occurrence of nutritionally related diseases. He is Head of the Human Biochemistry Research Unit, Department of Tropical Diseases, South African Institute for Medical Research, PO Box 1038, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa.
FIGURE 2 Professor Karen E. Charlton is Head of the Nutrition and Dietetics Unit in the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town, and a Research Fellow at the Medical Research Council: Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Programs, Tygerberg, South Africa.