Fonterra joins international drive to prevent malnutrition in the elderly


In a quest to find solutions to the growing issue of malnourishment in older people, Fonterra has joined with 24 scientific and nutritional organisations in a major international project. 

Older people in many countries, including New Zealand, are at higher risk of health issues because of poor nutrition. 

The five-year project, ‘The Prevention of Malnutrition in Senior Subjects in the EU’, is investigating the role diet and appetite may have in malnutrition and functional decline of people over 70 years.

Fonterra Director NZMP Medical Nutrition Maarten van Beek says the research findings will help Fonterra develop innovative new food products that prevent malnutrition and support active and healthy ageing. 

In New Zealand, almost 75 per cent of older adults involved in a recent Massey University study led by Associate Professor Carol Wham were found to be at risk of malnourishment, or were malnourished, when they were admitted to hospital.

“Older people need more protein to support good health, as malnourishment can cause muscle shrinking, as well as other health-related problems. The findings should offer valuable insights into the best ways to incorporate more protein into their diets,” says Mr van Beek.

“A key focus of NZMP’s Medical Nutrition work is to develop great-tasting, protein-enriched nutritional solutions that are part of a normal diet for older people.” 

As part of the project’s food trials to assess taste, and mobility and muscle outcomes, research participants will add NZMP protein-fortified products to their regular diets, including a coconut protein water, a chocolate and vanilla pudding and rice pudding.

Mr van Beek says Fonterra welcomes the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives by sharing technical knowledge and expertise to create inventive protein-enriched food concepts. 

“Not only does improved nutrition make a difference at an individual level, it can also help to reduce strain on healthcare systems,” says Mr van Beek.

NZMP, Fonterra’s dairy ingredients brand, formulates a range of specialised dairy nutrition solutions to help people to recover from malnutrition and for those who want to stay healthy and active as they age. These form part of NZMP’s broad range of dairy ingredients and solutions developed for global food and beverage companies.

The size of the functional foods market for seniors has been estimated to be worth $95.8 billion by 2022.