Significant malnourishment risk in Belgians over 65

Summary

Older people in Belgium run a high risk of being undernourished because they are simply less hungry and not getting enough protein, according to a new study

Link between nutrition and mobility

People aged 65 and over who live at home in Belgium are at a significant risk of being undernourished when it comes to proteins and fibres, according to a study co-ordinated by the Vives University College in Kortrijk in collaboration several other institutions.

As people get older, they have less of an appetite and tend to eat smaller portions. “But you still need enough proteins and fibres, just like younger adults,” researcher Lien Van den Broeck of Vives told De Standaard. “If people don’t eat enough, they lose muscle mass, which greatly affects their mobility and sees them ending up in a rest home too early.”

Some 29% of older adults in Belgium are at risk of being malnourished, and 7% already are, according to professor Maurits Vandewoude of Antwerp University, who co-operated on the research. “Over-65s often say that nothing is wrong because they are still mobile and don’t feel sick,” Vandewoude explained. “But it’s a problem that gradually gets worse.”

One solution, he said, is to give elderly people protein and fibre supplements, “but that is seen as a stigma,” said Yves De Bleecker of Vives’ Agro and Biotechnology expertise centre. “It’s better to integrate it into regular foods.”

To that end, the centre is developing yoghurt, hamburgers and other products enriched with egg whites. According to De Bleecker, it’s now essential to raise more awareness among the elderly of the necessity of eating more protein and fibre.

Photo courtesy Ingimage

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