UK health service issues challenge to industry to help tackle malnutrition

By Staff Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Malnutrition

The UK health services have released guidelines to try to tackle
malnutrition, a problem that affect 60 per cent of over 65s in
hospitals, and offer an opportunity to supplement and fortified
food makers.

Although less than five per cent of the whole British population is affected by malnutrition (defined as a deficiency, excess or imbalance of nutrients that causes adverse effects on wellbeing and body function), the figure rockets to 40 per cent for over 65s in care homes, and 60 per cent for the elderly in hospital.

Fraser Woodward, spokesperson for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), told​ that these guidelines would have a positive impact on the supplements and fortified foods industry.

"We hope that the supplements and fortified industry would take up the challenge and work with the local NHS trusts to help tackle this problem."

Three methods were identified to help tackle the problem of malnutrition. The least intrusive is oral nutrition support, which includes multivitamin and mineral tablets and capsules, and fortified foods and shakes.

In terms of oral multivitamin and mineral support, the guidelines recommend: "If there is concern about the adequacy of micronutrient intake, a complete oral mutlivitamin and mineral supplement providing the reference nutrient intake for all vitamins and trace elements should be considered."

More invasive ways of treating malnutrition include an enteral tube feeding system to deliver a nutritionally complete feed straight to the gut, and parental, which delivers the nutrients intravenously.

Carolyn Wheatley, chair of Patients on Intravenous and Nasogastric Nutrition Therapy (PINNT) said: "Choosing the most effective and safest route for nutrition support is essential, yet current knowledge of nutrition support amongst most UK health professionals is poor."

This view was echoed by Professor Paul Little from the University of Southampton: "GP's and others in primary health care see the vast majority of patients who are malnourished, but often do not think of malnutrition during clinical management. This guideline will raise the profile of malnutrition and its management in primary care, and also highlight the need for more research."

Malnourished individuals stay in hospital longer, succumb to infection more often, visit their GP on more occasions and require longer-term care and more intensive nursing care than individuals who are adequately nourished, accounting for an estimated additional cost of £5.3bn (€7.6bn).

Some of the recommendations would undoubtedly increase costs for the health services in the short term, said Andrea Sutcliffe, deputy chief executive of NICE, but the benefits to patient's health would help reduce costs in the long term, and could save the UK health services as much as £45m (€66m) per year.

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