Innovative micronutrient-rich food developed for elderly people with swallowing difficulties

Researchers of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) and Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU) developed innovative micronutrient-rich food product for elderly people with swallowing difficulties. Visually attractive and tasty food was tested with a group of geriatric patients. The nutritional state and the health indicators of the patients improved significantly after a mere 10 days of consumption of the new product.

Older people, especially those who have swallowing disorders, usually suffer from poor nutrition. Often they do not consume enough proteins, their nutrition lacks vitamins B and C, minerals, such as Zinc and Selene and unsaturated fatty acids. Malnutrition and unintentional weight loss contribute to a progressive decline in health, reduced physical and cognitive functions, such as weakened sight and sense of taste, and increased mortality.

However, special food products aimed at elderly people enriched with adequate nutrients and easy to consume are not easily available.

"Our aim was to develop a food product for elderly patients with swallowing difficulties and to test the efficiency of the product together with our colleagues from health sciences. The main challenge was to create not only nutritionally valuable but also a tasty product of a certain structure suitable to this group of patients. We are very happy about the solution and the positive results", says Professor Daiva Leskauskaite the leader of the KTU research team.

The development of the product took 9 months. The KTU team - Professor Leskauskaite, researchers Ina Jasutiene, Milda Kersiene and Viktorija Eisinaite, and two students - were looking for the optimal composition and the best balance between the price and quality of the product.

The food developed by the KTU team is rich of unsaturated fat, has fewer carbohydrates and lactose and more fat-soluble vitamins A and D3, contains the main vitamins from B group and minerals such as Zinc, Selene and Calcium. The product has creamy consistency to be easily consumable for people with swallowing difficulties. Black chokeberry extract renders it the beautiful color and good taste, at the same time enriching the product with valuable anthocyanins.

Encapsulation technology, a process during which the active agents are being entrapped within a carrier material, was used for inserting micronutrients into the product. This improved the delivery of the bioactive materials from the food during its digestion.

The product was tested in the LSMU Geriatric Medicine Clinic. Among the positive health indicators in the group of patients who were using 200 ml of the product twice a day for 10 days were increased arm circumference, more vigorous gait, doubled concentration of vitamin B12 in blood. All the subjects tolerated the product very well.

"During the test, the comparison of our product and its analog produced in Poland was made. The results revealed that our product was more nutritionally valuable for elderly people - the health indicators were significantly better for the group which was consuming food created at KTU", says Professor Leskauskaite.

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