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Tackling older peoples’ malnutrition during UK Malnutrition Awareness Week

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Board's head of Health Improvement is urging people to be aware of the dangers of malnutrition and dehydration.

This follows estimates that one in ten older people living in the community across the UK are at risk of malnutrition.

As part of UK Malnutrition Awareness Week, running during 14-20 October, the Board is seeking to increase understanding of this important issue and help people to identify and prevent malnutrition.

Head of Health Improvement, Anna Baxendale, said: “Malnutrition Awareness Week is the perfect opportunity to encourage people to check themselves, their loved ones and those they look after.

“Many people believe weight loss is normal as we age, but in fact, unplanned weight loss in later life can be a sign of malnutrition where people are not taking on board enough of the right foods and drinks to maintain their weight.

“It’s important that people recognise and understand the risks of malnutrition and dehydration in later life and find out the steps they can take to prevent them. 

“The most common signs are a loss of appetite and unplanned weight loss and are often seen through jewellery and clothes quickly hanging loosely.

“People often say they have just ‘gone off’ their food or have lost a bit of weight because they are not hungry. However, for older people or people in ill-health this can quickly impact on their ability to remain physically well.

“It is important people recognise and understand the risks of malnutrition and dehydration as well as taking steps to prevent these. Simple tips include: a little of what you fancy can do you good; eating anything will help stimulate appetite; and try smaller more frequent snacks and meals.

“There are also various foods and drinks such as butter, cheese, full fat milk, sauces, creams and milkshakes that can easily be incorporated into meals enjoyed as part of a snack. These will help people gain extra nourishment, add strength and provide more calories to help people feel more energised.

“Anyone who is concerned that they, or someone they care for, may be at risk can use a simple ‘self-screening’ website to help them assess the risk.

“I would urge anyone who has concerns about someone, perhaps an older relative, friend or neighbour, to have a conversation with them about their food intake and appetite and encourage them to seek advice from their health care professional.”

For more advice on how to improve nutrition when appetites are small, our Eating to Feel Better leaflet can be downloaded from

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021