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UGR Professor Carmen López Martínez supervises a study on the nutritional control of elderly people

The work of this research group, supervised by Carmen López Martínez, gave rise last year to an article in the specialized journal Nutrition. 89 healthy women who live in residential homes were polled to carry out the study. Results show that 7.9% elderly people are malnourished, 61.8% suffer from malnutrition risk and 30.3% are right. The project was Patricio Sebastián Oliva Moresco´s doctoral thesis, under the direction of López Martínez, Professor of Nutrition of the University of Granada.

Experts advise that an old person´s diet must include from three to five daily portions of vegetables with an average weight between 150 and 200 grammes. “Energetic intake must be reduced, according to official international recommendations. There must be a stable balance. The ideal diet for an old person would be to consume between 55-60% carbohydrates, 30% de lipids and 12 to 15% proteins”, López Martínez points out. Caloric needs decrease at this age and, however, more carbohydrates are necessary. Products like dairy products, fish and eggs must be consumed more frequently.

To obtain these results, the scientists from Granada used the specialized test MNA in two residential homes of Granada. Now, “we wnt to use this questionnaire with elderly people living at home, who usually eat worse than those of residential homes, since they do not concern about their feeding”, a UGR lecturer says. In addition, “one big problem is the large number of medicines they take without prescription, which causes negative interactions of drugs with nutrients”.

The white book for the elderly
The MNA is an internationally validated test that measures nutritional risk. It has 18 items and is easy to answer. The present stage of the study is being carried out in Malaga, with the collaboration of the Pharmaceutical Association, and it is is going to be used in other provinces of the autonomous region too. “The final objective is the writing of an Andalusian white book for the elderly”, López Martínez points out.

Some of the parameters observed with this test are the corporal mass rate and muscle size. The test also shows socioeconomical and medical data. The test is characterized by its efectiveness when it comes to calculate nutritional risk. In a project carried out “on the ground and a posteriori” in these residential homes, MNA results were checked, monitoring, weighing and comparing exactly what residents ate, thanks to the collaboration of the Puleva company.

Besides that it is more difficult for the elderly to eat properly, it is a generation which has suffered from serious food problems in the first years of their life. “Certain compounds, such as calcium, must be consumed as a child. A sufficient mineral rate can not be recovered by drinking milk when calcium deficiency problems start”.

Positive assesment
In spite of the fact that the data obtained have been assesed and more discouraging results could be expected a priori about old people malnutrition, Professor López Martínez alerts to malnutrition risks. The Dorica study on obesity and cardiovascular risk, recently presented in Spain, alerts to the serious consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

In harmony with this work, the UGR specialist emphasizes food bad habits: “We are very proud of the Mediterranean diet, but we do not follow it, especially in Andalusia“. And she concludes: “There is a bad nutritional education and children and parents should change it”.

Reference: Prof. Mª Carmen López Martínez.
Department of Nutrition and Bromatology.
Phone numbers: 958243869 – 958243863.