Monday March 20, 2023

Poor nutrition is the biggest contributor to early death worldwide according to leading international research*.

Dietitians Week (20-26 March) highlights the importance of the work undertaken by professionals to empower people to practice balanced eating habits.

Eastern Health Dietitian, Nikki Haar sees many cases of malnutrition working in the Geriatric Evaluation and Management at Home (GEM@Home) program.

“Our GEM@Home program ensures that older people with multiple and complex needs, gain rapid access to specialist assessment, diagnostic and management services, including care coordination in their own homes. This is important in order to optimise recovery and reduce risks associated with hospitalisation,” she said.

Malnutrition occurs when an individual does not meet their nutritional needs, whether they’re not eating enough, or the right types of food, or if their body has increased nutrition requirements due to a particular medical condition or illness.

Screening and monitoring for malnutrition is essential as early detection can prevent poor medical outcomes. Prevention however, does not look the same for everyone.

“There is no one best way to eat for everybody however eating a healthy balanced diet including consuming foods from the five food groups, can most certainly promote good health and wellbeing,” Ms Haar said.

Eastern Health Dietitian, Nikki Haar
Eastern Health Dietitian, Nikki Haar chats to a consumer in their home Image: Eastern Health

Aside from disordered eating or general concern that someone may not meeting their nutritional needs, Ms Haar suggests to look out for other indicators that it may be time to have a chat with a dietitian.

“There are a plethora of symptoms that could mean you may need to consult a dietitian, but some of the most common symptoms include; loss of appetite, muscle wasting, poor wound healing and gastrointestinal upset including diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal bloating or discomfort and excess flatulence,” she said.

Working in dietetics stretches beyond pointing to balanced nutritional practices, as dietitians help manage a range of conditions.

“I think the biggest misconception about dietitians is that our sole role is to teach people to eat healthier. We partner with our patients, their families and carers to empower them to meet their nutrition related goals when managing diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, food allergies and intolerances, gastrointestinal diseases, cancer and many other conditions,” Ms Haar explained.

*Research from the GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators.