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We’re supporting Nutrition Hydration Week

Nutrition Hydration Week is 14-20 March

Nutrition and Hydration Week is aimed at encouraging health and social care professionals to utilise their expertise in raising awareness of the risks of, and promote good practices that can help prevent, malnutrition and dehydration.

Around 3 million people are at risk of malnutrition in the UK. Preventing malnutrition and dehydration improves health and well-being and helps to reduce the burden on the health and social care services in treating and supporting those suffering from under nutrition and dehydration.

Jo Gravells, Specialist Learning Disabilities Dietitian at NCH&C, provides advice on spotting the signs of malnutrition (under-nutrition) in patients:

1 in 10 people are undernourished. In older people this can be because of social isolation and difficulty accessing food and drink.

So how do you spot the signs of malnutrition? Most people who are malnourished will lose weight, but it is possible to be a healthy weight, or even overweight, and still be malnourished.

Symptoms of malnutrition can include:

  • reduced appetite
  • lack of interest in food and drink
  • feeling tired all the time
  • feeling weaker
  • getting ill often and taking a long time to recover
  • wounds taking a long time to heal
  • poor concentration
  • feeling cold most of the time
  • low mood or depression

If you notice these symptoms in someone, try to encourage them to get help from their GP.

Things to look out for people saying would include:

“I’ve lost weight without trying”

“I find it hard to keep warm”

“It’s difficult to get to the shops”

“It’s difficult to cook for just one”

It’s really important to remember that losing weight is not a normal part of ageing and it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored. What advice can you provide to someone if you notice they are at risk of being under nourished?

  • Encourage them to eat little and often
  • For older people at risk of malnutrition with a small appetite it can help to eat little and often ie six small meals a day. Snacks could include: cheese & crackers, rice pudding, full fat creamy yoghurt, mini pork pie or scotch egg, cocktail sausages
  • Fruit is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and water. For older people at risk malnutrition, more calories and protein can be added by including some cream, ice-cream or custard with their fruit
  • You need 6-8 drinks per day to stay well hydrated. That’s around 2000ml. Dehydration can cause infections and falls especially amongst the older population. Sipping fluids throughout the day can help prevent these. It doesn’t have to be water – other drinks count such as diluted squash and fruit juice

Good hydration is critical for maintaining bodily functions, including the heart, brain and muscles. Maintaining healthy fluid levels lowers the risk of contracting a urinary tract infection, which can be dangerous for the elderly. I hope these tips will help colleagues spot the signs of malnutrition and help encourage conversations with those at risk.

Useful resources:

Listen to our NCH&C podcast about diet and nutrition: Sejal Jacob, Specialist Dietitian talks tips on getting your five a day and also dispells some common food myths.

Eat Well Age Well – ‘Food First’ video:

Find out more about working in our Community Dietetics Team here.