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Hospital patients most at risk from malnutrition in winter

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The highest prevalence of “malnutrition” among hospital patients is during the winter months – rising to over a third of those admitted – according to the biggest survey into the prevalence of the condition ever conducted.

Reports, published last week by the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, looked at nutrition screening data between 2007 and 2011 across the UK. The survey data covered 661 hospitals and 34,699 hospital patients. 

It highlighted seasonal and national trends, and charted changes made to the provision of nutritional care.

For example, overall prevalence of malnutrition on admission varied significantly between seasons – 28% in autumn and summer, 34% in winter and 25% in spring.

The researchers said the higher winter prevalence could be caused by a number of factors. Greater social isolation in cold weather might make people reluctance to go out shopping, while there might also be more severe accidents on icy surfaces, more severe hypothermia and more chest infections.

The prevalence of malnutrition was also about 33% higher in those aged 65 years or older than those less than 65 years old, and was a consistently higher in women than men.

Meanwhile, the research also revealed little improvement in the proportion of hospitals with access to a Nutrition Support Team to manage complex nutrition cases.  But, encouragingly, the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (‘MUST’) was being used by 82% of hospitals by 2011.

BAPEN co-founder Professor Marinos Elia said: “There is still room for much more to be done.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Nonsense, patients are most at risk when there aren't enough staff in which to help feed them. I wasn't aware that humans didn't eat year-round!

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