Thursday, 15 April 2021

Study reveals 80% of Singapore elderly at risk of malnutrition have low muscle mass

15 January 2021 | News

High prevalence of low muscle mass among 4 in 5 older adults in Singapore at risk of malnutrition

Image source: Shutterstock

Image source: Shutterstock

New Phase Two findings from the SHIELD study by Singapore based Changi General Hospital (CGH), SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP), and Abbott – which aims to strengthen health in the elderly through nutrition – revealed that improved nutritional intake reduced the risk of malnutrition by almost three-fold and promoted better health.

The double-blind clinical study of 811 participants, aged 65 and up, recently published in Clinical Nutrition, examined the effects of consuming oral nutritional supplements along with individualized dietary counseling to enhance health outcomes of older adults living in the community who are at risk of malnutrition.

When compared to the control group who received individualized dietary counseling and a placebo supplement over six months, the group of 405 participants who received individualized dietary counseling and consumed two servings of a specialized oral nutritional supplement containing beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl-butyrate (HMB) each day showed:

  • Improvements in overall health outcomes without hospital admission or readmission, with at least 5% weight gain
  • Three times lower risk of malnutrition
  • Improved vitamin D status 
  • Enhanced physical function, specifically increased leg strength and improved handgrip strength

Malnutrition leads to low muscle mass and health implications

Malnutrition affects a third of older adults, a population that is expected to grow rapidly in Asia- with 1 in 3 older adults in Singapore at risk for malnutrition, and more than 35% of older adults admitted to a local hospital found to be malnourished.

With the onset of aging, older adults require up to 30% more protein in their diet to maintain the same muscle mass as a young person in their twenties. Thus, maintaining a healthy nutritional status to avoid becoming malnourished requires sustained effort through a balanced diet and exercise.

Exercise and protein intake are key to maintaining muscle mass

Muscle mass is an important indicator of health in older adults. Low muscle mass is associated with adverse health outcomes and slower recovery rates in older adults.

A lack of protein may result in loss of muscle mass, leaving older adults more vulnerable to age-related symptoms such as frailty, sarcopenia, infections, and more. Older adults with chewing and swallowing difficulties, or experiencing a loss of appetite, and those who are at risk of malnutrition may be prescribed texture-modified diets or oral nutrition supplements during their dietary counselling to support proper dietary intake. 

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