18th June 2016

Talking about Europe

A recent poll of 900 UK researchers by the scientific journal Nature found that 83% want to remain in the European Union, while only 12% will vote to leave. This may reflect some of the perceived advances in scientific knowledge and evidence based practice developed through joint European initiatives. Projects, perhaps like the new Malnutrition in the Elderly Knowledge Hub (MaNuEL), that brings together researchers to build better research capacity on malnutrition in the elderly across Europe, including those resident in care homes.

Malnutrition in care homes is an important issue across Europe

We often discuss malnutrition in our nutrition blog, as it one of the key nutritional issues in terms of both clinical and quality of life outcomes for older service users in care homes. But the relatively high prevalence of malnutrition in care homes is not specific to the UK, with similar figures being reported in European care homes. For example, studies suggest up to 35% of service uses in care homes are at risk of malnutrition in the Netherlands.

The general purpose of MaNuEL is to extend scientific knowledge and to strengthen evidence-based best practice in the field of malnutrition in older people. It also seeks to harmonise research and clinical practice across Europe.

MaNuEL key research objectives

MaNuEL will focus on some key areas including the prevention and treatment of malnutrition in older people. Within the project the researchers specifically hope to:

  • Develop a definition of treatable malnutrition;
  • Compile data on the prevalence of treatable malnutrition from existing studies;
  • Obtain an overview based on published literature on existing screening tools for malnutrition in older adults (The MUST screening tool is widely used in the UK but other European countries use different tools to screen for malnutrition);
  • Select preferred malnutrition screening tools for older adults in different community and health care settings;
  • Obtain malnutrition prevalence data in older adults across Europe based on these preferred screening tools;
  • Identify key contributing factors of treatable malnutrition and develop a list of reliable and valid instruments to measure these;
  • Obtain an overview on the effects of non-pharmacological interventions on malnutrition e.g. food-based approaches.

MaNuEL will help provide important insights in current clinical practice, policies, and the education of health professionals in the area of malnutrition and will identify best practice examples and recommendations for improvement in different health care settings.

Evidence from other countries and examples of low cost good practice can provide ideas and inspiration for many. Using a multinational research group to harness best practices will hopefully serve to build better nutritional care in each individual country. And improving the risk of malnutrition in service users in UK care homes is a key health objective.

Whether we stay in or not, we will update you on the findings of future European research.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Ayela Spiro

Nutrition Science Manager, British Nutrition Foundation

Ayela is a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, where her role involves providing expert advice on nutrition and health issues to a number of key audiences including consumers, health professionals, charities, the media and the food industry. At the heart of her work is the communication of nutrition science that promotes understanding of nutrition and health and contributes to the improved wellbeing of all.

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