Personalized diets for elders hospitalized could bring down mortality rates sharply, an Israeli study shows.
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found death rate six months after discharge was only 3.8 percent in those who received intensive nutritional treatment designed and implemented by a registered dietician, whereas it was a sharply higher figure of 11.6 percent in those who were not covered by the intervention study.
The study recruited 259 hospitalized adults aged 65 and older who were nutritionally at risk. After six months, the rise in the mini-nutritional assessment score (an indicator of nutritional status) was significantly higher in the intervention group than in the control group.
According to BGU researcher Dr. Danit R. Shahar, "This is the first study that used an individually tailored dietary treatment for acutely hospitalized elderly people. The results indicate that intense dietary treatment reduces mortality and can help reduce the need for re-hospitalization."
In the study, a dietician met each patient upon admission to the hospital. The dietitian then followed the patient in his home, visiting three times after discharge.
The study dieticians (case managers) were the decision-makers regarding appropriate treatment and set up treatment goals. The basic approach was to develop a dietary menu based on inexpensive food sources and recipes. Patients had monthly contact by telephone to improve cooperation and prevent dropout from the study. The dieticians performed follow up assessment three to six months after discharges for all patients.
While the overall dropout rate was 25.8 percent, a standard range for elderly studies, after six months the rise in the mini-nutritional assessment score (an indicator of nutritional status) was significantly higher in the intervention group than in the control group.
The study, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Geriatric Society, was
supported by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research.