This week commences Malnutrition Awareness Week 2019. You may be asking yourself what is malnutrition and why is this an important topic for us to be raising awareness about. Hopefully by the end of this blog you'll feel as though you know more about malnutrition, and who may be at risk, and ways in which we can help minimise malnutrition in the UK.
What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition relates to an imbalance of energy, protein, and other nutrients which causes adverse affects on the body, function and clinical outcomes. Malnutrition includes both under nutrition and over nutrition, for the following week we will be focusing on undernutrition when we are talking about malnutrition.
Who is at risk of Malnutrition?
Older age people over the age of 65
Individuals with chronic progressive conditions such as cancer, dementia
Individuals who use drugs or alcohol
Individuals with long term conditions such as chronic lung disease
What are the signs of malnutrition?
Unintentional weight loss (5-10% within 3-6 months), may notice looser clothes or jewellery
Tiredness, loss of energy
Reduced ability in physical activities, day to day tasks
Poor concentration, altered mood
You can find more information on how to screen for malnutrition on BAPENs website: https://www.bapen.org.uk/screening-and-must/must/introducing-must .
What are the consequences of malnutrition?
Malnutrition can have adverse consequences for our health, it can impair things such as:
Immune Function:Those who are malnourished have a reduced ability to fight infection, which can lead to longer hospital admissions, increased likelihood of infections, and mortality.
Impaired wound healing
Reduction in mobility: Can lead to a decrease in a persons ability to cook,shop and self care for themselves. Can increase the likelihood of falls. Reduced activity could also increase likelihood of developing pressure ulcers and blood clots.
Specific Micronutrient Deficiencies
The most common include:
Iron deficiency can cause anaemia
Zinc deficiency causes skin rashes and decreased ability to fight infection
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anaemia and problems with nerves
Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults
Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy
Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness
Almost 1/3 of older aged individuals who are admitted to hospital are at risk of malnutrition, as 93% of older aged individuals living in the community are living with malnutrition at present. I know myself that from first hand experience that the majority of patients that I have encountered within the hospital are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. So now that we understand those who are at risk and what the signs and symptoms may be, what can you do to help minimise malnutrition:
1) Encourage eating little and often - 3 smaller meals with 2-3 high energy high protein snacks
2) Fortify the foods a person is already eating : add cream, cheese, butter, jam. Adding 2-4 tablespoons of skimmed milk powder to a pint of milk (full fat ideally)
3) Encourage nourishing drinks such as milky coffees, hot chocolate, Ovaltine or Horlicks, a glass of milk.
4) Seek further advice from a dietitian or doctor
Remember the little things can add up!