Our diet plays an important role in overall health and wellbeing. Good food choices can improve our quality of life, help maintain healthy body weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease and malnutrition.
Many preventable health conditions are often affected by our food choices – obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stroke. This is because the nutrients we derive from eating food play a role in the way our metabolism functions. In other words, how our body runs!
Our body requires a certain amount of nutrients to keep us fit and healthy. People can become malnourished if they don’t eat enough, or the right types of food, or if their body can’t absorb all the nutrients from food. This can be caused by the overall underconsumption of nutrition or overconsumption of certain nutrients.
Malnutrition is a condition that results from nutrient deficiencies (underconsumption) or overconsumption of only particular nutrients (overnutrition).
Undernutrition occurs when you do not get enough nutrients, particularly protein and energy. It can lead to impaired growth (height) and severe weight loss. It is also common in undernutrition to experience deficiencies in vitamins and minerals which directly impact our health and wellbeing.
Overnutrition occurs through the overconsumption of certain nutrients – proteins and fats, along with energy. This commonly results in obesity. Overnutrition can also lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, as the foods which are highest in these nutrients are excluded in favour for higher energy foods such as sugary drinks and foods high in fat and refined carbohydrates. These substituted foods are often low in key vitamins and minerals.
Malnutrition and living with disability
Individuals who are born with or acquire a disability often face issues related to nutrition. Specifically, individuals with oral feeding and swallowing problems – cerebral palsy and genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome or Prader Willi syndrome are at greater risk of malnutrition. Also, individuals who are born with or acquire a physical disability may be at an increased risk of pressure sores and therefore require an increased amount of nutrients and a higher quality diet to promote wound healing and improve immunity. There are a number of contributing factors that place people living with a disability at an increased risk of malnutrition.
Malnutrition in older Australians
Older Australians are prone to malnutrition due to factors such as loss of appetite, changes to swallow and chewing ability, loss of taste and smell, dementia, isolation and lower-income. This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Further, malnutrition places older Australians at an increased risk of falls and fractures as deficiencies in nutrients such as protein and calcium can lead to muscle weakness and osteoporosis respectively. Malnutrition also places them at an increased risk of infection, poor wound healing and several chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Overall this increases the chance of hospitalisations significantly which has its own associated costs and loss of independence.
What can I do?
Awareness of malnutrition is an important step in addressing this issue in people living with disability and old Australians. It may not always be obvious when someone is suffering from malnutrition
A great first step is to see if you or a loved one is at risk of malnutrition is to have a Malnutrition Screening Tool (MST) completed by a GP or registered nurse. When you get the results, take these to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD). Here at Kinela, we have a large team of registered dietitians who can help people living with disability or older Australians manage and avoid malnutrition.
At Kinela, our experienced dietitians specialise in supporting people living with disability and health conditions. Our services include guided supermarket tours, meal planning and everyday tips on meal preparation and balanced eating.
Our dietitians create custom meal plans and programs and we help you set your health goals. Once we have designed a program just for you, we deliver the program in person or via video call at your home or wherever suits you best.
Together, we track your progress and support you every step of the way in your journey to better health.
Book your consultation
If you would like to find out more about NDIS funding for dietitians and other health support services, call us on 1800 572 096 or fill out the form below to book your first consultation with our friendly team.