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It is important to highlight malnutrition issues. In doing so, we can educate healthcare professionals on how to identify and treat them at an early stage. As such, this presents a great opportunity to address the malnutrition challenges experienced by admitted patients in healthcare facilities. Dietician Omy Naidoo explains.

While the medical and surgical needs of inpatients are typically given priority, their dietary issues are rarely taken into account.

This leads to a number of hospitalized patients suffering from malnutrition, which prolongs their recovery and increases their chances of experiencing complications.

What you need to know about hospital malnutrition

Hospital malnutrition occurs when an individual becomes nutritionally depleted due to their illness as well as being unable to consume adequate nutrition. Very often when a patient is admitted to a hospital, they may have a low appetite, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. This leads to the patients consuming inadequate amounts of nutrition.

On the flip side, patients in hospitals may have higher nutritional requirements to deal with their illness as well as help them recover. The net effect is that these patients become at risk for hospital malnutrition.

A silent, growing problem

Studies have shown that patients who are malnourished have a 3-fold increased risk of death in that admission compared to well-nourished patients.

Malnourished patients have a 73 % higher cost of admission and are more likely to develop serious infections as well as longer hospital stays compared to well-nourished patients.

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Moreover, malnourished patients typically experience more complications and require more medical attention.

Besides experiencing many adverse outcomes such as longer hospital stays, and higher healthcare costs, this also puts a strain on healthcare professionals.

Nutrition and healthcare

There is no doubt that nutrition is a vital component of how patients respond to treatment when they are sick. However, malnutrition can delay recovery and increase complications in both surgical and medical patients. In order to combat this condition, hospitalized patients can benefit from healthy food options.

Furthermore, patients can also benefit from being evaluated by registered dieticians upon admission. This will enable them to determine any deficiencies and create a treatment plan based on their specific medical and surgical requirements. It is vital that healthcare professionals are capable of diagnosing malnutrition at an early stage, as well as educating patients on how nutrition contributes to recovery.

Bottom line

The take-home message is that hospital malnutrition affects the outcome of your illness, and you need to pay attention to your loved ones when in the hospital in terms of their nutrition. Seek a dietician to assist should you notice intake starting to drop. Hospital malnutrition is preventable and completely treatable.

Main photo credit

Thanks to Andrea Piacquadio for the main photograph featured in this article.


Omy Naidoo

Omy Naidoo is a Registered Dietician and founder of Newtricion Wellness Dieticians which is one of the largest dietician brands in the country. The practice has helped more than 15 000 patients. Omy Naidoo qualified from UKZN in 2008. He is a well known personality in the media with regards to health topics which require nutritional input, being featured on Radio, TV and print media. He has a passion for gut health and critical care nutrition.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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