Impact of nutritional supplements on health indices in elderly people

W. Wouters-Wesseling

Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


Life expectancy in both the Western and non-western population has been increasing over the past centennial, due to improved hygiene, the discovery of medicines such as antibiotics and economic welfare. The consequence for society of this ageing of our population is an increased need for medical and social care and thus a burden of costs for health care. At the level of individual people an increased life expectancy is appealing, but only if accompanied by a preservation of a certain health status. Low intakes or plasma levels of nutrients have been related to several areas of physiological decline often observed in elderly people.

This thesis describes the effects of provision of a complete nutritional supplement to elderly who are at risk for impaired nutritional status. Two studies in the population of psychogeriatric nursing home residents demonstrated that both short and longer-term use of a nutritional supplement was well accepted and tolerated in this target group. Furthermore, body weight and plasma levels of micronutrients increased upon supplementation.

The results of a 6-months randomised placebo controlled intervention study in elderly living in homes for the elderly or sheltered housing are also reported. The effect of a nutritional supplement (containing macro- and micronutrients) or a non-energetic placebo on health indices was evaluated. The group receiving the supplement had significant improvements in plasma vitamin levels, weight, sleep, immune function, antioxidant levels and cognitive function. The objective for subjects to maintain intake from the regular diet was reached, and thus their total nutrient intake increased when using the supplement.

In conclusion, the provision of a nutritional supplement can improve several health indices in elderly people who are at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, the strategy to improve health of elderly people should incorporate the option of providing nutritional supplements.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van Staveren, W.A., Promotor, External person
  • Bindels, J.G., Promotor
  • de Groot, Lisette, Promotor
Award date1 Nov 2002
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789058086815
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2002


  • food supplements
  • elderly nutrition
  • elderly
  • old age
  • health
  • nutritional intervention
  • nutrition research


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