Malnutrition in the older community


I was lucky to attend a Nutrition seminar at the University of Manchester last year. It was lead by Dr Mike Stroud from Southampton Hospital and head Nutrition Professor at Southampton University, John McLaughlin from the University of Manchester and Salford Hope Hospital, and Kirstine Farrer who is a Consultant Dietician at Salford Hospital.

The seminar looked at the effects of malnutrition, specifically within the ageing community. Although the effects can relate to any age.

I would like to share the information that I took from the seminar.

Good Nutrition=Health and resistance to illness.

Malnutrition (Causes)=Depression, anorexia, poor diet, age, poverty, vomiting, and pancreatic failure.

Maximal absorption of nutrients is essential. When we reduce our intake we are risking problems such as resilience to disease and trauma after treatments like surgery.

We need to look at calories. Our energy intake must equal loss via work done and body heat generated to maintain a steady state. Otherwise tissue and weight-loss/obesity occur.

We also need to ensure that we are getting our essential dietary components. Protein, Fats, Minerals and Vitamins.

However this is easier said than done. Many older people suffer from poverty, reduced mobility and isolation. Issues such as sore mouth, dentures, dry mouth (from medications) and eating disorders can all be causes of reduced food intake.

Many older people also suffer from Gastric Emptying slowing down with age, which can cause the sensation of satiety (feeling full). This can slow down the speed in which medication is absorbed. Small bowel speed can cause diabetes and thyroid problems. These issues can also lead to infections. Take these for example and an older person suffering from cancer. If they were to have radiotherapy this would also affect gut resilience.

It is estimated that it costs £15 billion per year of public expenditure to treat malnutrition. This is higher than obesity, yet not as well documented.

The ways in which malnutrition in the ageing community is being treated is by:

Food/Fortification, Oral Nutrition Supplements, Tube Feeding and Parenteral Nutrition.

This is a big and rising problem and something we need to address. It isn’t fair that so many people are ignored due to their age. Everyone deserves the same level of support.

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