AN APPETITE FOR LIFE
Declining birth rates and longer life expectancy in developed countries mean that their populations are ageing at a rapid rate. Europe is the world’s most affected region, with a projection of one in three Europeans over the age of 60 by the middle of this century. Many frail elderly will need to live in care homes, placing a growing economic burden on people of working age.
This burden would be eased if people could stay healthy and active in later life – adequate nutrition is known to be one of the most significant factors in a good quality of life for the elderly. Yet elderly people often become undernourished, a condition which leads to a more rapid decline in their health and well-being. A three-year Coordination Action, NUTRISENEX (Improving the quality of life of elderly people by coordinating research into malnutrition of the elderly) will bring together the results of EU research programmes into better nutrition for old people. It will produce recommendations, survey health legislation, and develop guidelines for functional foods. The result will be greater awareness of the problems faced by the elderly and should indicate how best to meet their nutritional needs.
IN GOOD TASTE
As people grow older, their senses of taste and smell become less acute, especially if they suffer from chronic diseases. When they stop enjoying eating, they may also lose their appetite, lose weight and become more frail. One solution is to create special foods for the elderly, with heightened flavour and fortified with nutrients. A particular problem arises in care homes, where all residents tend to be served the same meals, regardless of personal or cultural preferences. In one study, nursing home residents given flavour-enhanced meals became hungrier and actually put on weight.
Another problem in the nutrition of the elderly is the fear of certain foods, often as the result of media coverage of health threats. A low-fat diet may be good for the heart, but foods with high nutritional density may give you more energy. One aim of NUTRI-SENEX is to examine the ‘one diet fits all’ concept in relation to the nutritional needs of older people.
RESEARCH NEEDS COORDINATION
The European Commission already supported several projects in this area and NUTRI-SENEX partners are prominent in this research field. Current EC projects include: HEALTHSENSE-CHOICE, looking at how factors such as changes in sensory perception affect what the elderly choose to eat; CROWNALIFE, investigating intestinal micro-organisms in old people to help in designing food priorities and functional foods to benefit their intestinal flora; VITAGE, examining the role of fat-soluble vitamins in the diet and how this changes with ageing; and SENIOR FOOD, studying old people’s attitudes to food, including delivered meals, convenience foods and snacks.
This work is largely based in academic institutions, so it will be important to convey it to the community of the elderly and those caring for them. For this reason, NUTRI-SENEX has a strong communication element. There will be workshops to explain to the health and care industries the guidelines the network will draw up for best practice in food preparation, as well as technology transfer and training workshops. The development of special food products for older people may prove to be an attractive and growing market for the food industry. The involvement of organisations which take care of the elderly will be important to transfer results to the end-users of this Coordination Action.
The consortium will be open to new centres of excellence in the field to enable it to become the ERA’s leading forum for research into the nutrition of elderly people.
List of Partners
- TTZ Bremerhaven (Germany)
- King’s College London (UK)
- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Germany)
- Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung (Germany)
- Justus-Liebig-Universität, Gießen (Germany)
- Sendatek SL (Spain)
- Universität Wien (Austria)
- Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association (UK)
- Age Concern Torbay (UK)
- Leatherhead Food International (UK)
- Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
- Technology Codes (Ireland)
- University of Derby (UK)
- Deutsche See GmbH & Co. KG (Germany)
- University College Cork (Ireland)
- ASAP (Germany)
- Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (France)
- Frosta AG (Germany)
- MB Tecnica (UK)
- Innovative Qualifikation in der Altenpflege (Germany)
- WBI Technology (Ireland)
- Institutet för Livsmedel och Bioteknik (Sweden)
- Sabadell Gent Gran, Centre de Serveis, (Spain)
- NIZO Food Research (The Netherlands)
- University of Tartu (Estonia)
- Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
- Findus R&D AB (Sweden)
- Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland)
- BIMBO (Spain)
- Institut postgraduálního vzdelávání ve zdravotnictví (Czech Republic)
- Unilever Nederland (The Netherlands)
- Full title:
- Improving the quality of life of elderly people by coordinating research into malnutrition of the elderly
- Contract n°:
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Rosanna D’Amario, rosanna.d’firstname.lastname@example.org
- EU contribution:
- € 1M
- Coordination Action