Improving nutrition and well-being in old age
FAU researchers develop and test new foods designed to meet the needs of elderly people
For many different reasons, older people often struggle to eat enough. Due to lack of nutrition, their muscle mass decreases, along with their strength and fitness. In an effort to improve nutrition for elderly people, researchers at the Institute for Biomedicine of Aging (IBA) at FAU are involved in developing foods that are specially designed to meet their needs and carrying out research on the acceptance and effects of these foods. IBA is working on this project as part of the ‘Enable’ Competence Cluster based at Technische Universität München (TUM) which is developing food for specific age groups and involves various partners at universities and other research institutions.
Many elderly people eat puréed food as they have difficulty chewing and swallowing. This kind of food often looks unappetising and tastes rather indistinct. Researchers at Enable want to remedy this situation with food from a 3D printer. Puréed food is returned to a visually attractive form and can be enriched with added vitamins and proteins according to individual needs. The researchers at IBA carried out a study in which they investigated how these foods affect the nutrition of older people with chewing and swallowing problems. Furthermore, a team of FAU researchers led by Prof. Dr. Dorothee Volkert is involved in developing protein-rich drinks that are tailored to the needs of older people in terms of their tastes and metabolisms. At the same time, they are testing which type of protein drinks are well received by older people and whether these drinks can prevent loss of muscle.
As part of the project, IBA also aims to recruit a cohort of 100 elderly people to take part in a study on their eating habits and physical condition. The goal is to compare them with younger cohorts at the Cluster who will be examined using the same methods in order to identify the extent and significance of changes that take place at a more advanced age.
New communication technologies could also help ensure older people eat well and prevent the problems associated with poor nutrition. With this in mind, another area of the Cluster’s research is focusing on developing new technologies that are designed to help inform consumers on how to eat more healthily and ensure more of the general population eats appropriately. Researchers at IPA and the Institute of Psychogerontology (IPG) at FAU will work with their partners at TUM to develop and test computer-controlled technologies for older people that aim to ensure they receive adequate nutrition.
The ‘Enable’ Competence Cluster will be funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the next three years with around 5.8 million euros. All those involved in the project met for the project’s official launch on 17 July 2015 in Freising-Weihenstephan.
Prof. Dr. Dorothee Volkert
Phone: +49 911 530296168