Call to build evidence base on nutrition in old age

22 Jan 2021

The British Dietetic Association’s Older People Specialist Group (OPSG) welcomes the newly published statement from the government Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which replaces the previous COMA The Nutrition of Elderly People (1992). The UK population has aged significantly in the 29 years since the first COMA publication, yet the new statement highlights that there is still a lack of good quality evidence to demonstrate what healthy eating means for this population group.

Vittoria Romano RD, Chair of BDA OPSG said: “This statement from SACN is a helpful addition to the growing case for better recognition of the specific needs of older adults living in the community. SACN rightly recognises that older adults have different nutrition and hydration needs to support them to age well. However, current public health guidance for the general population still fails to take into account older adults’ differing nutrition and hydration needs. Our concern is that this lack of evidence could be contributing to the poor nutrition and health inequalities faced by many older adults.”

The SACN statement recognises some of the key unique challenges of nutrition in older age, including reduced appetite, changes to taste and smell, the importance of mouth health and of hydration. The BDA OPSG is currently working on a simpler, more public-facing guidance to support good nutrition in older age and hope to publish later this year.

In the meantime, the group has issued a call to health and social care leaders to help build the evidence base around nutrition and diet in older age. Support and funding is needed to allow healthcare professionals to collect the necessary data and undertake the research needed. Older people’s health and welfare has been recognised as a priority by the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS and we need to ensure that the importance of nutrition is recognised as a key priority alongside.

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