A ground-breaking Australian study involving UNSW has revealed alarming levels of malnutrition in the elderly, with close to 80 percent malnourished or at risk when first admitted to hospital.
However, early intervention with a dietitian proved doctors could dramatically reduce length of hospital stay and health costs.
The findings follow a one-year study by a team of gastroenterologists, geriatricians and dietitians at Sydney?s Prince of Wales Hospital. The results will be presented at Digestive Diseases Week in Washington on May 19.
The study, led by President of the Gut Foundation, Professor Terry Bolin together with the Prince of Wales Department of Geriatric Medicine and Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed that when arriving for admission to hospital 80 percent of elderly patients were malnourished or ?at risk? but their hospital stay could be halved by implementing a nutritional care program.
Prof Bolin, a conjoint Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of New South Wales, said: ?Malnutrition is not simply caused by lack of access to food ? we believe other factors such as malabsorption play a key role. Elderly patients may appear to be a healthy weight but in fact be malnourished so Body Mass Index (BMI) alone is a poor indicator.
?What this study has shown is that the prevalence of malnutrition among the elderly in the community is high but we have simple and effective remedies,? he said. ?Malnutrition has significant impact on mortality, morbidity, length of hospital stay and readmission. The benefit of early action could potentially save our health system hundreds of millions of dollars.?
The study is believed to be the first randomised study of its kind examining malnutrition in a clinical setting with control and intervention groups.