Frail, aged people needed for nutritional study

University researchers believe a combination of nutritional supplements and low dose hormone treatment delivered to under-nourished elderly people in their homes could dramatically lower hospital admissions.

Professor Ian Chapman from the University’s Discipline of Medicine says a pilot study has shown that high protein supplements and testosterone given to elderly people helps to increase their energy levels and body weight, and keep them out of hospital.

“Nutritional supplements can actually reduce mortality by up to 34% in the aged population, particularly those who are severely malnourished,” Professor Chapman says.

“Low doses of testosterone also increases muscle mass and strength, energy and libido,” he says.

The University of Adelaide is keen to recruit elderly people still living in their own homes for a more advanced study, conducted over 12 months.

Two hundred frail, aged people (over 65 years) who are clinically under-nourished will be recruited in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney for the year-long project.

“Hospital stays for this age group are up to 10 times greater than for those adults aged under 45 years in Australia. A lot of this is due to falls and disability associated with muscle loss and reduced food intake.

“If we can address this problem, the costs to the community and the individual could be reduced drastically,” Professor Chapman says.

“In older people there is a strong relationship between hospitalisation and the later development of disabilities. If we can keep the elderly out of hospital for as long as possible, everyone wins.”

Professor Chapman says an estimated 43% of elderly people living at home and receiving domiciliary care are under-nourished.

Study participants will be split into control and treatment groups and visited at home at regular intervals over a 12-month period to assess their weight, strength and energy levels.

The study has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information about the study, contact Dr Cynthia Piantadosi on (08) 8222 8818 or Professor Ian Chapman on (08) 8222 4162.