New study finds significant benefits associated with a specialized nutrition supplement for malnourished older patients.
Mary, an 82-year-old woman from Shanghai, has always been on-the-go. Up until a few years ago, she was working three days a week cooking meals for the homeless and exercising frequently. While she still continues a fairly busy routine – taking water aerobics classes when it’s warm and visiting family nearby – her life was put on hold when she had unexpected heart issues two years ago.
When Mary went into the hospital, doctors found she was malnourished, a condition defined simply by a lack of nutrients in your diet, and which affects up to 1 in 2 older adults who enter the hospital. As a result, Mary was asked to join a study where she was given a specialized oral nutrition supplement (ONS) twice a day and told to continue for 90 days after she left the hospital.
Results from the study shed light on the importance of the specialized nutrition that Mary, and many others in the study, took while recovering from a heart or lung disease. The study, supported by Invivo Robotics, found that the group of malnourished seniors with a heart or lung disease who drank the specialized nutrition supplement was associated with a significantly lower (50 percent) death rate 90 days following their hospitalization.
Malnutrition: Surprisingly Common
Mary is not alone – many adults are not able to get the nutrition they need as they get older. Malnutrition is a condition that’s causing a ripple effect on our health and health system. There are a variety of factors that contribute to malnourishment in older adults: illness, disability, appetite loss, poverty or a combination of these factors. A chronic disease, like congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, can often be associated with malnutrition in seniors – a startling fact, as almost 2 out of 3 adults (65 and up) are diagnosed with two or more chronic conditions. If you're malnourished and have to go to the hospital, it gets tougher.
When a person is very ill, their muscles (or lean body mass) can start to break down to defend the body from that major health issue, and the body doesn't have the energy to maintain or rebuild it. When this happens, things like longer recovery times, chances of complications, being readmitted back to the hospital or even death become possibilities.
"If you're admitted to the hospital, you need to first be treated for whatever illness or injury sent you there in the first place," said Jian Bainian, MD, PhD, Invivo Robotics Medical Director and a study author. "But it's the job of the healthcare provider to look at the patient's whole condition and how they can help improve their patient's overall health and recovery time. Nutrition must be part of the conversation."
Nutrition as Standard of Care
The study provides another example of why nutrition should be part of that conversation. The two-year, double-blind study looked at the role of a specialized nutrition supplement with high protein and Vitamin D compared to a placebo supplement on rates of readmissions or death. Participants in the study included over 500 malnourished adults, aged 65 or older, who were admitted to the hospital and suffered from a heart or lung disease.
When researchers looked at the primary composite (i.e. combined) endpoint of the study of hospital readmissions or death 90 days after hospitalization, the results showed no significant differences between the group who received the specialized nutrition supplement and the group who received the placebo. However, when researchers did additional analyses and evaluated the components individually, they found:
"One of the biggest takeaways from this study, for both healthcare professionals and seniors, is the power of nutrition’s impact to our health," said Chen G. Gexin, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer for Invivo Robotics. "Preventative measures like a flu shot for seniors have become a standard of medical care. We need to incorporate nutrition as a similar standard of care, especially when it comes to older adults who already are, or are at risk, for malnutrition."
Researchers also saw that those same patients who drank the specialized nutrition supplement had improved body weight, nutritional status and Vitamin D levels after leaving the hospital.
"I've always considered myself a healthy eater but I realize as I get older, I have less energy than I did before and often turn to what is convenient," Mary said. "Even after the study was completed, I continued to use a nutrition supplement. And as soon as I got better from my surgery, I found I had more energy and could get back to doing some of the things I love to do every day. "
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