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Protein undernutrition is a major health concern for older adults, especially for those who are ill. There is growing consensus for a protein intake target of 1.2 - 1.5 gram per kg bodyweight per day (g/kg/d) for these older adults. However, this target is not reached by the majority of older adults. Therefore, more effective and novel strategies to increase protein intake are warranted, including the use of protein-enriched foods and drinks. This thesis evaluated the impact of the developed protein-enriched foods and drinks on protein intake and physical performance among older adults. The studies in this thesis were done as part of the Cater with Care® project; a collaboration between the university, care organizations, and partners from the food industry. The industrial partners developed the products, focusing each on different product categories: Carezzo Nutrition developed bread, pastry, and fresh juices and soups; The Kraft Heinz Company focused on long shelf-life and convenience foods; and the Veal Promotion Foundation produced veal meat.
To fit the products to the needs of the target group, interviews with undernourished older adults (at home or hospitalized) and with dietitians were conducted (chapter 2). These interviews showed that undernutrition awareness is low among older adults. To treat undernutrition by changing their eating habits, older adults need to be aware of their health problem, they need to be willing to change, and they need to be able to understand and implement the dietitian’s advices. This process takes time while undernutrition should be treated immediately. For immediate treatment, enriched products could be used, without first creating awareness. According to the interviewees, enriched products should fit within older adults’ eating habits, and have small portion sizes.
To gain insights in food choices of hospitalized older adults (65 years and older) an observational study was conducted. In this study, energy and protein intakes of 80 hospitalized older patients at low and high risk of undernutrition were assessed (chapter 3). Patients who received an energy- and protein-rich menu, because of their risk of undernutrition, were better able to reach the protein and energy targets than patients with a low risk of undernutrition receiving a standard menu. Based on these results we proposed that all hospitalized older adults – both at low and high risk of undernutrition – should receive an energy- and protein-rich menu.
Subsequently, a pilot study was done in a care home and a rehabilitation center with the aim to explore the potential of the developed protein-enriched products to increase protein intake (chapter 4). Participants did not compensate their consumption of regular protein-rich foods (e.g. dairy, cheese) upon the introduction of protein-enriched foods and drinks. The 22 institutionalized elderly (mean age 83 years) consumed 12 gram protein per day more than they did before the intervention. Consequently, more people met the protein target of 1.2 g/kg/d than before the intervention. We concluded that protein-enriched products enabled institutionalized elderly to reach protein intake targets. Furthermore, we gained valuable feedback to improve the assortment of protein-enriched products for the effectiveness study.
In the final study, effects of the protein-enriched products on protein intake and physical performance were studied in a randomized controlled trial during hospitalization and subsequent recovery at home. During the hospital period in which 147 older patients participated, patients that received protein-enriched products increased their protein intake compared to the control group that already received a protein-rich hospital menu (chapter 5). As a result, 79% of the intervention group reached a protein intake of 1.2 g/kg/d, compared to 48% of the control group. Finally, effects of the protein-enriched products were tested at home, for a longer period (chapter 6). Half of the hospital phase participants (n = 75) continued the intervention at home for 12 weeks. The protein-enriched products were successfully implemented in the daily menu of the older adults: the intervention group had a higher average protein intake (1.5 ± 0.6 g/kg/d) than the control group (1.0 ± 0.4 g/kg/d) during the 12-week intervention period. Seventy-two percent of the intervention group reached a protein intake of 1.2 g/kg/d during the 12-week intervention, compared to 31% of the control group. Protein intake of the intervention group was mainly increased by the following protein-enriched products: bread, dairy drinks, dairy desserts, soups, and fruit juices. However, despite the successful improvement of protein intake, we found no added value on physical performance in the first 6 months after hospitalization.
It was concluded that with the protein-enriched familiar foods and drinks, we have a feasible, acceptable, and appetizing long-term strategy to increase protein intake of older adults in various settings. We envisage a beneficial role of these protein-enriched products in combination with physical activity in older adults with lower protein intakes.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||14 Oct 2016|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|
- hospital catering
- protein intake
- diet studies
- randomized controlled trials