Research News

Derriford team seeks to improve patient nutrition through food presentation

A gastroenterologist and team of dieticians at Derriford Hospital are seeking to find out whether a patient’s appetite can be increased through the presentation of their food, in order to improve inpatient nutrition.

 

In particular, the team are looking at the impact of using different types and colours of cutlery and crockery, and whether this affects the amount of food consumed by patients.

 

“There are lots of pre-conceptions and pre-conceived ideas out there that in general, hospital food is not very appealing to patients,” explains Dr Paula Murphy, Dietician at University Hospitals Plymouth. “However, this is a great opportunity to create the first real evidence-base for this kind of information, rather than purely working from anecdotal perspective. We’re really excited for this chance to prove whether something so simple, such as altering the environmental situation, can encourage our patients to eat more and improve their health and recovery through nourishment.”

 

The team have already conducted the first phase of the study, which involved asking patients to rate images taken of hospital food served on a variety of crockery and with non-standard cutlery. The most popular choice will then be used in comparison to the standard crockery and cutlery used at the Trust, in a randomised controlled trial. Patients staying on the gastroenterology ward will be invited to take part, and will be asked to complete satisfaction surveys after receiving their meals. Their food will also be weighed before and after, in order to measure intake.

 

“Exploring whether the appearance of meals can improve appetite has always been on my agenda,” explains Professor Stephen Lewis, Consultant Gastroenterologist. “We’re really lucky that the catering team here at the Trust are fully engaged and supportive of this study, as we will rely heavily on their support.”

 

This isn’t the only research study being conducted at UHP aimed at improving patient nutrition.

 

Paula explains: “As the Trust celebrates Nutrition and Hydration Week 2021, it’s important to highlight that this isn’t the first study we have conducted about meal consumption. In fact, improving patient nutrition is high on the research agenda, and we are keen to work with all areas within the Trust to assess how we and our colleagues can make a difference.”

 

One of Paula’s most recent studies saw her conduct a prospective audit of the nutritional status of pre-surgical pancreatic cancer patients, soon to be published in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology. Her results showed that a large number of patients were found to be deficient in vitamin D and zinc, and many had a selenium deficiency, which would have been left untreated due to them being asymptomatic. However, thanks to this early identification, these nutritional issues could be addressed prior to surgery, which ultimately may help to improve patient outcomes. It certainly paves the way for future research in this area.

 

A fellow dietician, Dayvid Rich, also recently conducted an project with elderly patients on the frailty unit at Derriford. The aim was to improve nutritional status and patient outcomes through nutritional assessment and dietary prescriptions. Following individual assessment, patients were provided with a tailored nutritional plan, with outcomes such as weight and hand-grip strength monitored as a result. The pilot project was a success, with the majority of patients improving their wellbeing and reducing complications associated with undernutrition.

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