While taking nutritional supplements helps older adults in the general population gain weight, they don't necessarily live longer or function better than those who don't take supplements, according to a research review article by Saint Louis University geriatricians.
However, supplements improve the ability of those who are malnourished or frail to function and help them live longer.
Nutrition supplements are beverages such as Ensure or Boost that contain vitamins, minerals, proteins and calories and frequently are taken between meals, in addition to traditional foods.
Malnutrition in the elderly is a significant problem, affecting up to 15 percent of those in long-term care facilities, says Julie Gammack, M.D., professor of geriatrics and lead author of the article that was published early this year in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.
"Malnutrition and weight loss are common and have serious consequence for older adults. It's often under-recognized in the elderly population and its consequences can be devastating," said Gammack, who also is a SLUCare Physician Group geriatrician.
"People lose strength and their ability to function independently, which puts them at risk of increased hospitalizations and their overall quality of life deteriorates. Oral nutritional supplements have shown benefits for those who are malnourished or frail."
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