By: Talking Nutrition Editors
Disease-related malnutrition is common in clinical settings, thought to affect one in four patients admitted to hospital.1 While it impacts people of all ages, older people are most vulnerable to malnutrition due to changes in food intake and appetite as we age. Malnutrition can compromise immune function, leading to higher risk of infection and disease, further vulnerability, poorer patient outcomes and reduced quality of life. Therefore, timely nutritional care is critical to support these patients.
During three expert-led sessions hosted by DSM at the ESPEN 2021 Virtual Congress, Prof. Philip Schütz, Marcel J.G Smets and Markus Biedermann explored the importance of optimal nutritional management in preventing – or reversing – malnutrition in clinical settings, plus the latest guidelines for nutritional care in older people specifically. Below, we outline four key insights from the event.
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Increasing evidence shows that malnutrition is a modifiable risk factor in hospitalized patients, especially in elderly and frail patients with multiple illnesses. During his presentation, Prof. Philip Schütz, Kantonspital Aarau AG, reviewed the latest findings from a sub-group investigation of the EFFORT trial focusing on older patients.2 In the study, one group received individualized early nutritional therapy according to guidelines for best nutritional management. The second group received standard nutrition provided by the hospital kitchen.
The research found that targeted medical nutrition therapy helped to increase protein and energy levels in vulnerable patients and had a positive effect on clinical outcomes. In fact, nutritional support – which included nutrition during hospitalization and nutritional advice – reduced the risk of mortality by 50% in the short term (i.e., 30 days after hospitalization). Mortality risk was also lower in the long run (six months after hospitalization) in those receiving nutritional support.
Proactive, early screening and effective nutritional support could have a significant positive influence on elderly patients in helping them overcome or prevent malnutrition. Prof. Schütz shared some recommendations for the management of malnutrition in hospital settings3, which are aligned with the ESPEN guidelines:
There is an important shift in attitude taking place towards long-term nutritional care in the elderly. With more senior adults wanting to maintain independence for as long as possible, the focus in nursing home settings is increasingly on well-nutrition and prevention, rather than simply providing palliative care. There is already increasing recognition that nutritional management in older people is a shared responsibility among care facility management and other stakeholders.
During his session, Marcel J.G Smets from the European Aging Network (EAN) – which supports more than 10,000 care providers across 25 European countries, and champions millions of older people in Europe – introduced new practical guidelines for long-term nutritional management in elder care setting. The guidelines take into account a range of factors, like individual preferences and emphasize the importance of a supportive environment.
To conclude DSM’s Satellite Symposium, Markus Biedermann discussed the importance of creating appealing foods via innovation in nursing homes. To date, the role of food in care homes has been to preserve and maintain life, and medical nutrition has been used for acute recovery purposes. However, the spotlight is now on quality of life. Biedermann explained that mealtimes are an important way of staying connected to others and one’s life story, and therefore a food first approach is always highly recommended to protect human dignity and independence. To champion this, it is important to develop truly appealing nutritional plans that include foods with high nutritional value and which meet the preferences of older people. Those involved in the care of senior adults should therefore consider how we can innovate new food products that provide a positive and fun eating experience, and help to overcome challenges often seen in elderly, like dysphagia.
At DSM, we have a deep understanding of the nutritional needs of patients of all ages. That’s why we have an unparalleled record of delivering science-led innovation at every stage of your product’s development. This takes more than ingredients. It takes a partner.
Want to find our more about how DSM can help you develop purpose-led medical nutrition solutions that are appealing AND effective? Partner with DSM.
11 October 2021
5 min read