People who struggle to eat and drink properly following an illness are at risk of malnutrition, which can increase the risk of complications and the mortality rate. Yet, until now, a lack of meaningful studies meant that it was unclear whether individual nutrition management actually had a positive impact on patients.
The randomised controlled clinical trial by researchers from the University of Basel and Aarau Cantonal Hospital and published in The Lancet, involved more than 2,000 medical patients (not critically ill or undergoing surgical procedures) at risk of malnutrition at eight Swiss hospitals.
The patients were divided into two groups, with one group receiving the usual hospital dishes and the other receiving meals from individual nutritional plans designed by dietitians.
After 30 days, the comparison showed that fewer serious complications occurred and the mortality rate fell for those with individualised meals. Statistically, the comparison suggested it was possible to prevent one death for every 37 people treated through individualised nutrition.
Study leader Professor Philipp Schütz, who is an SNSF professor at the University of Basel and head of internal and emergency medicine at the Aarau Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland, says these results have 'major implications' for the treatments of patients.
"Our results show that malnutrition is a modifiable risk factor and that the therapy has a positive influence on disease progression.
"This study has major implications for the treatment of hospital patients with multiple morbidities and should help to reinforce the importance of nutritional therapy in high-risk patients."
The study suggested the individualised nutrition group achieved a better consumption of energy and protein and enjoyed a general improvement in treatment outcomes.
The comparison also showed that fewer serious complications occurred. Statistically, it was possible to prevent a serious complication in one in 25 people treated.
Source: The Lancet
Published online: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32776-4
"Effect of early nutritional support on frailty, functional outcomes and recovery of malnourished medical inpatients trial"
Authors: Schütz. P., et al