A new research study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that the general health of elderly hospitalized patients improves, along with their physical and social functioning, when they are given nutritional supplements in addition to their normal diet.
Researchers describing a nutritional supplementation regimen for these hospitalized patients found that paying attention to and correcting nutrition in older people, specifically those who are ill, can lead to a significant improvement in their well-being. Tests were done both at six weeks and at six months after the start of the supplement regimen.
225 men and women, aged 75 years on average, were hospitalized for cardiovascular problems, lung disease, fractures, or infections. They each received a normal hospital diet plus either a placebo drink or a 995-calorie nutritional supplement twice daily for 6 weeks. This particular mix of vitamins and minerals provided vitamins A, C, D, E, B1, B6, B12, folic acid, niacin, biotin, and pantothenic acid, as well as the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, iodine, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Quality of life assessments at 6 weeks did not identify significant differences between the patients who received the supplements compared with those who were given the placebo. However, after 6 months the patients given the nutritional supplement showed significantly better quality of life scores compared with patients who got the placebo. These former patients had improved measures of physical and social function, their overall vitality was better, and the patients' mental health improved in comparison to those non-supplemented patients.
The researchers say that this trial demonstrated the value of nutritional supplementation in hospitalized older people, which provided clinically important benefits. It is the belief of many doctors that widespread use of nutritional supplements among older adults could have a substantial impact on the quality of life for senior citizens.