Although malnutrition can refer to both over and under nutrition, it most commonly relates to undernutrition, and can be defined as a physical condition resulting from the shortage of energy (calories), protein and/or other nutrients.

Older people are at high risk of becoming malnourished, which is associated with both morbidity (health conditions) and mortality (death).1 The decline in function caused by malnutrition can impact severely on quality of life.

Age is associated with changes in the body, including a decrease in muscle mass and bone density, and increase in body fat. It is important to try to minimise the impact of these changes with good nutrition and appropriate physical activity. However, reasons such as reduced appetite, dentures which dont fit properly, difficulty opening food packaging due to arthritis, and financial situations, can make adequate nutritional intake difficult.

Malnutrition may result in a loss of muscle mass, causing a decrease in strength which may impair mobility and the ability to care for oneself. Poor nutrition may lead to a slower recovery from illness, increased risk of infection, complications from surgery or hospitalisation, and poor wound healing.

Unfortunately these factors can further impair appetite, making it a vicious cycle. Left untreated, malnutrition can have an enormous impact on quality of life and may lead to a loss of independence. However even small changes can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.

At Nestlé Health Science, we take aging-related malnutrition seriously and are actively involved in finding and delivering nutritional therapies to improve quality of life.

1. ANZSGM. 2015 Position Statement No 6. Undernutrition and the older person.
2.Deautz, N. Protein intake and exercise for optimal muscle function with aging: recommendations for the ESPEN expert group. Clinical Nutrition. 2014; 33:929-936.

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Adequate nutrition as well as appropriate physical activity will help to maintain muscle mass as well as strength, and therefore optimum function. 2

Deautz, N. Protein intake and exercise for optimal muscle function with aging: recommendations for the ESPEN expert group. Clinical Nutrition. 2014; 33:929-936.

Look for issues that can increase the risk of malnutrition


Small changes in habits can have, over time, a large impact on the amount and quality of nutrition people receive from their diet. Look out for issues such as health and dental problems, medications that interfere with appetite or cause nausea, living alone (social isolation), and mental problems such as depression. These factors can lead to an increased risk of malnutrition.

Malnutrition can occur in a person of any size


It is easy to assume that someone who is underweight may be malnourished, however malnutrition can occur in a person of any size. Look out for unintended weight loss as well as other signs of malnutrition, such as changes in eating habits, fatigue and loss of strength, and slower-than-expected recovery from injury and illness.

Ways to improve nutritional intake


Despite best intentions, it can often be difficult to consume all of the nutrients required to maintain a well-nourished body. Following are some tips for increasing nutritional intake, to make the most out of every mouthful.

  • Eat little and often if large meals are overwhelming
  • Eat when you feel best (eg. If you feel best over the first half of the day, focus on eating during that time)
  • Snack on nourishing foods such as cheese and biscuits, yoghurt and nuts between meals


  • Consume nourishing drinks such as milk drinks or smoothies instead of low energy drinks such as water, tea, coffee or diet drinks
  • Choose creamy or hearty soups instead of broths
  • Daily exercise can stimulate appetite, as well as helping with depression, and strengthen bones and muscles. Speak to your healthcare professional about your ability to exercise.
  • If you’ve been following a special diet, check with your healthcare professional to see if dietary restrictions are still needed.

Please contact your healthcare professional if you are concerned about the nutritional status of yourself or someone you know.

Nutritional solutions for the management of malnutrition

Nutritional supplements formulated to support the nutritional needs of those with malnutrition

SUSTAGEN®Hospital Formula is a formulated meal replacement which can only be of assistance where dietary intake is inadequate and must not be used as a total diet replacement. SUSTAGEN® Optimum and the RESOURCE® product range is a food for special medical purposes specially formulated for medical conditions where nutritional needs cannot be met by diet modification alone.