Food Innovation Against Senior Malnutrition

Food Innovation Against Senior Malnutrition

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Contrary to common beliefs, food requirements do not decline with age, rather the opposite. The older we get, the more careful we should be with our diet, including with the protein intake in order to maintain our muscles and therefore our autonomy.

Monique Ferry, a researcher at Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research); Claire Sumont-Rossé, INRA resarch Director at Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l’Alimentation (Centre for Taste and Feeding Behavior); Stéphane Ribière, SENES’s Training Department Director and Benoît Millet, food designer, were present at the conference on senior nutrition at the Silver Economy Fair on Tuesday 15 November 2016 at the Paris Parc des Expositions.

They are adamant that seniors need a high-protein diet as, with age, the body assimilates the nutrients present in food less and less. (only 80%). Innovating in the field of senior diet helps fight against malnutrition. This can be caused by a number of factors:

Physiological factors: dysregulation of satiety with age, loss of appetite;
Sensorial factors: poorer perception of flavours, smell, and taste;
Physical factors: oral disorders of the chewing cycle, of salivation, dysphagia (swallowing is more difficult);
Sociological factors: depression, loneliness, loss of income;
Beliefs: old aged people are supposed to need less food; and
Medical factors: loss of appetite due to prescription drugs.

46% of Seniors in Long-term Care Facilities Suffer From Malnutrition

A survey of 600 people aged 65 and over was completed in 2011 in France. Respondents were classified in four categories in order to assess the rate of malnutrition in each group: self-sufficient people, people receiving home care but no help with their meals, people helped with their meals at home, and people in long-term care facilities.

The survey showed that the more dependent people were, the more likely they were to suffer from malnutrition:

Situation Rate of malnutrition
Self-sufficient people 4%
People receiving home care
but no help with their meals
People helped with their meals at home 46%
People in long-term care facilities 46%

These results seem paradoxical since people in the last two categories receive help with their meals. “If the malnutrition rate is very high in the last two categories, explained Claire Sulmont-Rossé, it is because those seniors do not cook themselves. When they receive home care, the person in charge of the meals does not necessarily cook what the senior is used to eating or likes. Seniors do not necessarily dare question their help’s work.”

“In the long-term care facilities, residents do not really have a choice in menus, added Benoît Millet. In school or company restaurants, people do have a choice! Why not in retirement homes? People 75 have known the first supermarkets, they want choice! They also want dishes they could have cooked at home, dishes they are familiar with that reassure them.”

Fighting Malnutrition in Care Facilities

Fighting Malnutrition in Care Facilities

In long-term care facilities, there have been a number of initiatives so that the kitchen does not become a black box, off-limits, in spite of professional and health & safety constraints. Residents take part in peeling or dishwashing workshops, to stay in contact with cooks and food.

Senes, a company specializing in seniors’ diets, has found the solution to help seniors living in long-term care facilities recover their appetite. “The elderly want to continue eating as they used to, explained Stéphane Ribière, Training Department Director for S.A.S SENES. But they may no longer be able to.” The teams work on vegetable produce they transform in order to make absorption easier. “For example, let’s take a tomato. We mix it to make the texture soft, melting, and then add a gelling agent to give it the shape of a tomato: whole tomato, tomato slices or tomato cut in two. Then residents eat a tomato that looks like any tomato, but melts in the mouth.”

“Still, we must fight so that people never go to long-term care facilities, stated Monique Ferry. We must do our utmost so they stay home and self-sufficient as long as possible. This is why we must prevent malnutrition, including through specialized cooking workshops.” According to her, we must not give up cooking, even when retired. Cooking special dishes makes us want to indulge, eat and share meals.

Food Innovations

For Benoît Millet, a food designer, one of the solutions to fight malnutrition could be in next generation diets: “the consumption of meat is on a downward trend, for obvious environmental reasons. We must therefore find other sources of proteins: seaweeds, micro-algae, lacto-fermented products and possibly insects.”

Healthy snacks made from medicinal plants have been designed for seniors. These are natural products that look like chocolate bars and contain all the nutrients required to stay fit (proteins, iron, vitamins, etc.).

Food 3D printers - Optimiam
Food 3D printer – Source : Optimiam,

Food 3D printers have also appeared. They will make it possible to print full balanced meals for seniors, including those suffering from dysphagia. These printers could help create meals with varied composition and texture, so that the elderly are not reduced to eating mash and porridge. These are still a few years away.

Sources :
– Conference at the Silver Economy Fair (15 November 2016): Senior diets, requirements, trends, newness

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