This week is Malnutrition Awareness Week™. Malnutrition is an under-recognized problem in the United States, especially among older adults. As many as one in two older adults are at risk for malnutrition.
Why is malnutrition such a threat to the health of older adults? As we age, our bodies change, which may result in vitamin deficiencies or low caloric consumption, increasing the risk of malnutrition. Disease-associated malnutrition is also a risk among people with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. These diseases can weaken appetite, make it difficult to remember to eat, or change metabolism.
The effects of malnutrition are serious. Without the right amount of nutrients, our bodies can’t fend off diseases or remain healthy. Malnutrition weakens the immune system and causes weight and muscle loss.
Malnutrition can also occur during hospitalization when patients have to follow strict diets or not eat. This can make it harder for them to properly recover.
We know how important it is to raise awareness about malnutrition. We have partnered with the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) this week to spread the word about the effects malnutrition can have on our bodies and the importance of proper nutrition. ASPEN’s Malnutrition Awareness Week site offers great insights on malnutrition.
We also have a number of resources available to educate on the issue of malnutrition – from a “pocket film” that spotlights the hidden epidemic of malnutrition in older adults to a tip sheet for health care professionals. All of our resources can be found here.