Supplementation cut hospitalization by 16.5%, researchers show

A review of 19 international studies into the use of supplements within care homes and the community has demonstrated the economic case for supplementation.

The review, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, was able to show that the use of standard oral nutritional supplements (ONS) in the community – with or without additional use in hospital – produces an overall net cost saving. The positive outcomes achieved by ONS groups in the 19 studies were associated with clinical benefits such as improved quality of life, reduced infections, reduced minor post-operative complications, reduced falls, and functional limitations.

Malnutrition is a common clinical and public health problem, say the researchers, and at a given point in time, more than 97% of it exists outside hospital. “It not only produces a burden to the individuals concerned such as delayed recovery from illness, more complications and increased dependency on others, but also to the services and the public providing health and social care support,” the authors state.

The researchers, from the University of Southampton, Trinity College in Ireland, Sapienza University in Rome and Charité Universitätsmedizin in Germany, found that the direct contribution of ONS to total expenditure in the community studies was small, but their potential beneficial impact on the budget was large. For example, hospitalisation, which dominated the expenditure, was markedly reduced by 16.5%.

• According to the nutrition charity BAPEN, public expenditure on disease-related malnutrition in the UK in 2007 was estimated at over £13 billion