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Southampton academics to advise on best nutrition for hip-fracture patients

Published: 6 January 2004

Researchers at the University of Southampton have been awarded £40,000 from the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN) to advise on the best form of nutrition for malnourished hip-fracture patients at Southampton General Hospital.

Using a newly-launched screening tool known as MUST (Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool), Dr Rebecca Stratton, Senior Research Fellow at the University's Institute of Human Nutrition, and her team will to routinely screen patients admitted to Southampton General Hospital with broken hips, to establish whether they are malnourished. Dr Stratton's involvement follows the publication of her co-authored book on 'Disease-related malnutrition: An evidence-based approach to treatment', published by Oxford: CABI Publishing, and her involvement in the Malnutrition Advisory Group of BAPEN.

Dr Stratton and her team will run a trial with 50 malnourished patients and compare whether they respond better to a diet of hospital food and high-energy snacks or hospital food and oral sip-feed supplements.

Their aim is to test the hypothesis that food snacks suppress appetite and food intake to a greater degree than liquid supplements and are less likely to produce functional and clinical benefits. A secondary hypothesis is that a newly-discovered hormone, ghrelin, is involved in the injury response and is more markedly suppressed by foods than liquid supplements.

The practitioners will monitor the patients' health during the duration of their time in hospital (usually about 15 days) and track appetite sensations, food intake, muscle strength, rehabilitation time, as well as conducting a blood test so that levels of ghrelin can be assessed. They will advise at the end of the one-year research project which form of nutrition was most effective.

"The University of Southampton is leading the way with the first trial of MUST," comments Dr Stratton. "This is also the first time that anyone has ever compared the nutritional benefits of sip-feed supplements over high-energy snacks in orthopaedic patients. We believe that the results will enable us to advise more effectively on treatment of malnutrition in the future."

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