Hospitalized elderly get barely enough calories

NEW YORK Fri Jul 27, 2007 3:48pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The energy input from food taken in by hospitalized elderly patients is only just sufficient to cover their minimal energy output, French researchers estimate. The group believes such patients could benefit from higher caloric intake.

Malnutrition is known to be common among elderly patients hospitalized with acute illness, because they often have little appetite and don't eat much. Exactly how much energy these patients expend and what their calorie requirements are, however, have been unclear.

As reported in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, Dr. Patrick Ritz, from University Hospital, Angers, and colleagues calculated the energy intake and energy expenditure at rest in 90 acutely ill patients ranging in age from 65 to 99 years.

The resting energy expenditure (REE) was multiplied by the physical activity level constant (1.42) to determine the actual energy input needed to cover normal activity.

The team found that energy intake was 1.29-times higher than the REE, so it fell short of energy requirements by 205 kcal/day, on average.

The results indicate that the energy intake in hospitalized elderly patients is equivalent to the amount needed to sustain vital functions in healthy individuals, the authors conclude. "This is notably inadequate in elderly patients in acute care units," they point out, since people battling illness expend more energy.

"Spontaneous food intake being just sufficient to match minimal requirements, higher calorie intakes are likely to be beneficial for hospitalized elderly patients in acute care units," Ritz's team concludes.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatric Society, July 2007.

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