Understanding current advice on nutrition can be difficult: new figures show 82% of UK consumers aged over 55 are confused by government advice on healthy eating and nutrition, a higher level than amongst the general adult population (75%). At the same time, more than half of people in the UK say they are not influenced by the ‘traffic light’ nutritional labelling system.
As Helen Willis, dietitian at apetito and Wiltshire Farm Foods, comments: “In light of the UK’s ageing population and recent reports from Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society highlighting problems and challenges in social care, a broader discussion about nutrition for older people is also urgently overdue. As the new chair of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, said recently, nutritional advice such as five-a-day might not always be realistic and GPs sometimes need to tailor the advice to the individual. More than three million older people in the UK are at risk of malnutrition, and consumer confusion on nutritional issues isn’t helping the situation.”
Given this, a new report, TheKnowledge: Eating for Health, published today by apetito, the UK’s leading creator and supplier of meals for the health and social care sector, calls for a new national discussion about ‘Eating for Health’. Eating for Health recognises the highly individual nature of nutrition, especially when it comes to older people.
The report is a collection of insights and perspectives on health and wellbeing in our society with an emphasis on taking a broader view of nutrition and its contributing factors. It includes a survey of 1,000 UK consumers, as well as perspectives and case studies from experts across the health and social care sectors such as Care England, the Malnutrition Task Force and NHS England. TheKnowledge: Eating for Health calls for action in five key areas to improve the nutrition of older people in the UK.
Consumer confusion can be exacerbated by broad-brush nutritional guidelines that aren’t always relevant to older or vulnerable people. Eating for Health involves looking at nutrition through the lens of the individual’s health needs. TheKnowledge explores the importance of personalised nutrition management, recognising the complex interplay between health and diet, the importance of hydration, and the social aspects of eating. It includes five calls to action, providing specific recommendations to support health and social care professionals:
- We need to shift the conversation from healthy eating to Eating for Health, with the growing and very different challenges of obesity and under-nutrition. One size does not fit all
- Diet and nutrition must play a more prominent role in healthcare professional training in order to recognize the part nutrition plays in recovery from illness
- Hydration is easily overlooked but must not be forgotten as one the six key nutrients needed to preserve health
- Patients in hospitals and residents in care settings deserve to eat ‘good’ food which will support their recovery, regardless of whether it meets a particular campaign standard
- Let’s not forget the dining experience and the vital part it plays in Eating for Health. The nutritional value of an uneaten meal is zero.
Helen Willis, dietitian at apetito and Wiltshire Farm Foods, commented: “It should come as no surprise that the majority of people in the UK are confused by general advice on eating – healthy eating is a complex issue, and such advice is often very broad. Our nutritional needs are as individual as we are, and for older people and those with health issues, these needs can be complex. it is vital that doctors and healthcare professionals are given the tools they need to support their patients from a nutritional as well as a broader health perspective.”