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Stomach bigger than eyes: residents eat more when served larger portions

In somewhat of a reversal of the ‘eyes bigger than one’s stomach’ idiom, aged care residents eat more when given bigger portion sizes.

That was the key finding from a University of South Australia study.

Researcher Hei Tong Lau and colleagues looked at ways to improve the nutrition and health status of older Australians living in a residential aged care facility and tested the effectiveness of a range of interventions, like music and scent.

The team found that portion size was highly correlated with the amount of food residents consumed – to a greater degree than the environmental factors explored.

Lau said: “In Australia, up to 70 per cent of elderly people living in aged care facilities are suffering from malnutrition, the primary reason for which is inadequate food intake.

“To improve this, we must find ways to encourage older people to eat more. And while there has been a justified focus on the food itself – including look, taste and texture ­– we have been concentrating on other factors that can improve the food experience, within a real-world aged care facility.

Over a seven-week period, the food intake of 31 residents was recorded once a week, both under a control and a cue-enhanced setting.

The study found that for each kilojoule increase in served energy there was a 0.73 kilojoule increase in consumed energy.

Lau said the findings provide valuable insights for aged care chefs, caterers and providers.

“Increasing serving sizes may seem like a small step, but for residents who need the nutrition, it’s massive move forward.”

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