Malnutrition Awareness Week is to raise awareness about the risk of malnutrition amongst older adults and information about the importance of encouraging seniors to eat enough and to ensure that what they are eating is nutritious.
Malnutrition develops when a person doesn’t consume enough calories, protein, vitamins, minerals and/or other nutrients, the lack of which can have a significant impact on an elderly person’s overall health.
A cross-sectional study conducted in the Waitemata District Health Board region between July 2014 and September 2015, found (involving 234 participants over the age of 65 years, with an average age of 84 years) close to half (46.6 percent) of the participants were identified as at risk of malnutrition and just over a quarter (26.9 percent) were malnourished.
The study identified issues with swallowing, low body mass index (BMI), low muscle strength and poor cognition are conditions which commonly increase a person’s risk of malnutrition.
Milk is useful food for improving both protein and calories. It is frequently the basis of advice for improving protein and calorie intake for people with a poor appetite; low body weight/BMI, unintentional weight loss and high calorie needs.
The carbohydrate content of milk might appear to be predominantly 'simple' but as lactose milk, it has a low GI together with milk's protein content this results in a slow rise in blood sugar and one which lasts for longer. This is still the effect if other sugars e.g. fruit sugar, table sugar are added to milk-based foods such as smoothies, custard, and yoghurts for example.
Dietitians want older people at risk of malnutrition or who are malnourished making their porridge with milk, eating snacks between meals, eating ice cream or custard with their canned fruit, drinking a latte or hot chocolate. This covers the 'food first' approach which Pharmac requires before people are eligible for nutrition supplements.