It is estimated that around 1.3 million older people in the UK are living with malnutrition or are at risk of being malnourished, with 93 per cent of these living in the community. With the rapid increase in British older adults, it is increasingly important to find strategies to maintain and improve good health and well-being in the older population. As people get older they tend to eat less, and specifically less protein. This could negatively affect health because protein intake is particularly important as we age. With age, people are less able to use the protein they eat to build muscles and perform other important biological processes. Moreover, many protein sources – such as meat, fish and nuts – become more difficult to eat or are expensive and time-consuming to prepare. As a result, people tend to eat less while they need more protein. Low protein consumption has been found to result in increased illness and infection and increased chances of falls, fractures and hospital stays. It can also lead to reduced mobility, independence and wellbeing, and increased early death. Dr Emmy van den Heuvel, Prof. Katherine Appleton and Prof. Jane Murphy have conducted research investigating the barriers to consuming high-protein foods in older adults. One research study examined whether finding new and interesting ways to eat eggs could be a way to encourage older adults to consume more protein.
Eggs are a good source of protein, and are soft, they are easy to prepare, they are relatively cheap and have a long shelf-life compared to other protein rich foods, and therefore may help to increase protein intake in older adults. In a randomised control trial with 100 participants, older adults were given six high-protein egg-based recipes every fortnight for three months, along with herb and spice packets. The study found that by providing these new ideas for high protein meals, participants who were given the recipes increased their egg intake for up to 12 weeks after the intervention.
The study is now published online ahead of print in Public Health Nutrition at http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980020002712.
The work was funded by Bournemouth University and the British Egg Industry Council.