When we picture what healthy eating looks like, for most people it would look like a diet that’s mostly filled with a variety of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, protein foods, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds, with some room for fun foods as well. However, health challenges resulting in malnutrition, where energy and protein needs are elevated, may require certain strategies to help with meeting daily nutrition needs, to manage malnutrition. For some, a healthy diet might also include fortified food products, to meet energy requirements and to help the body to recover.   

What health conditions are we talking about?

Recovering from diseases such as cancers, stroke, lung conditions, certain surgeries and serious injuries requires a nutrient-rich diet to help the body to recover and lower the risk of infection and illness. But these are also typically times when the body struggles to get all the essential nutrients it needs through the diet, due to lack of appetite or physical barriers to eating, which may lead to malnutrition. Malnutrition also commonly occurs in the older population, especially in those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and in people living with chronic illnesses that affect food intake such as Crohn’s disease. 

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition means ‘poor nutrition’ and includes both under- and over-nutrition. Undernutrition is a physical state that occurs when the body does not have enough nutrients to support optimal functioning, while overnutrition happens when there are more nutrients being consumed than the body needs. 

While overnutrition is widely known as overweight and obesity, undernutrition is also very common and a serious health issue, particularly disease-related malnutrition. In Australia, malnutrition affects approximately 10 – 30% of people living in the community, with the prevalence being higher in older people and in those with certain diseases, such as cancer. 

Undernutrition is something that unfortunately can go by unnoticed or untreated outside of the hospital setting, especially as undernutrition is not always related to someone’s weight and can have a negative impact on quality of life. 

How do we know if someone is at risk of undernutrition? Some of the signs and symptoms of undernutrition to recognise include: 

  • Unplanned weight loss 
  • Loss of muscle mass and strength
  • Loss of appetite and interest in food 
  • Getting sick frequently and taking a longer time to recover from illness 
  • Poor wound healing
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Falls

People recovering from cancers, stroke, lung conditions and other serious illnesses or injuries, as well as people living with chronic conditions that affect food intake such as Crohn’s disease, people with poor access to food, as well as the elderly population, are at highest risk of malnutrition outside of the hospital setting. 

How do we best manage malnutrition?

While the best way to prevent malnutrition is to spot the signs early on, malnutrition can be treated through planning out the diet with a Dietitian to ensure that all energy and nutrient requirements are met. Since this is not always achievable through food alone, nutritional supplement drinks can be highly beneficial to improve dietary intake and meet nutritional needs.  

Fortisip Compact Protein* drinks are a good nutritional supplement to help those that do struggle to reach their daily nutritional requirements, helping those at risk of, or diagnosed with, malnutrition. Just one drink provides similar protein content to eating 3 eggs (18g of protein), has 300 calories and also contains 28 vitamins and minerals. At just 125mL, or half a cup per serve, these can be so helpful for those people with a poor appetite. Just like we often use supplements in the form of tablets and capsules to help meet certain nutrient needs, a high energy, high protein nutritional supplement like Fortisip Compact Protein can do the same.

Other ideas that can help with managing malnutrition in those with higher energy needs and/or poor appetites include:

  • Spread food intake out across the day into small meals and snacks to fit more food in
  • Use full fat dairy products in meals and snacks
  • Snack on small portions of high energy foods such as cheese, nuts and yoghurt
  • Use oil in cooking and to drizzle over your veggies (I love extra virgin olive oil due to its nutrition profile)
  • Add skim milk powder to dishes such as soups, stews and drinks, or mixed into milk to really up the protein and energy content
  • Smoothies can be a great way to pack in extra nutrients and are often better tolerated than whole meals.

While food and meal ideas like these are ideal to provide the body with what it needs to function optimally, also building in a nutritional supplement to your diet may be required, if struggling with malnutrition. The Fortisip Compact Protein drink comes in five delicious flavours – vanilla, mocha, strawberry, hot tropical ginger and neutral – and can be trialled by ordering from the Fortisip website! 

Find out if you’re at risk of malnutrition by taking the quiz now: https://www.malnutritionawareness.com.au/malnutrition-quiz/

This post was sponsored by Fortisip.

From time to time I write sponsored posts such as this, however views are entirely my own, and I only ever collaborate with companies and brands who resonate with me.

*Fortisip Compact Protein is a Food For Special Medical Purposes and must be used under medical supervision. 

References

  1. Parkinson, L., 2019. AJA and the Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Australasian Journal on Ageing, 38(2), pp.77-77.
  2. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/sites/default/files/migrated/SAQ7730_HAC_Malnutrition_LongV2.pdf> [Accessed 10 March 2021].
  3. Fávaro-Moreira NC, Krausch-Hofmann S, Matthys C, Vereecken C, Vanhauwaert E, Declercq A, et al. Risk Factors for Malnutrition in Older Adults: A Systematic Review of the Literature Based on Longitudinal Data. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal. 2016;7(3):507–22. 
  4. Dietitiansaustralia.org.au. 2021. Malnutrition – who is at risk and things to consider » Dietitians Australia. [online] Available at: <https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/medical/malnutrition-who-is-at-risk-and-things-to-consider/> [Accessed 10 March 2021].
  5. Baines, S. and Roberts, D., 2001. Undernutrition in the community. Australian Prescriber, 25(5), pp.113-115.
  6. Who.int. 2021. Malnutrition. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/malnutrition> [Accessed 10 March 2021]. 

About Chloe McLeod