HOMEFOOD randomised trial - Six-month nutrition therapy improves quality of life, self-rated health, cognitive function, and depression in older adults after hospital discharge.

Clinical nutrition ESPEN. 2022;48:74-81

Plain language summary

It is well known that older people are at a higher risk for nutritional inadequacy which is accompanied by depression, impaired cognitive function, and poor overall health. In this secondary analysis of a randomised controlled assessor-blinded dietary intervention trial, the authors examined the effects of six months of nutritional therapy on quality of life, self-rated health, cognitive function, and depression in elderly patients aged 65 years and over. The participants in the intervention group received nutritional therapy (HOMEFOOD) education to overcome malnutrition, which included dietary recommendations to ensure an adequate nutritional intake of energy and protein through diet and additional supplemental protein and energy-rich foods. After six months of nutritional therapy, the intervention group showed improvement in cognitive function, self-rated health, depression score, and quality of life scores, as well as improvements in measures related to weight gain. Further studies need to be conducted in order to determine if nutritional therapy provides additional benefits to older people. However, healthcare professionals can use the results of this study to better understand how nutritional therapy can improve the quality of life and health of older people in comparison to standard care, so they can better advise their patients.


BACKGROUND AND AIMS Malnutrition is common among older adults and is related to quality of life, cognitive function, and depression. To what extent nutrition interventions can improve these outcomes remains unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of nutrition therapy on health-related quality of life (EQ-5D), self-rated health, cognitive function, and depression in community dwelling older adults recently discharged from hospital. METHODS Participants (>65 years) were randomised into an intervention (n = 53) and a control group (n = 53). The intervention group received individualised nutrition therapy based on the nutrition care process including 5 home visits and 3 phone calls, in combination with freely delivered energy- and protein-rich foods and oral nutrition supplements for six months after hospital discharge. EQ-5D, self-rated health, Mini-Mental-State-Examination (MMSE), and the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression - IOWA (CES-D) scale were measured at baseline and at endpoint. RESULTS Two subjects dropped out, one from each arm. The control group experienced an increase in depressive symptoms and a decrease in self-rated health during the study period, while the intervention group experienced increases in cognitive function, self-rated health, and EQ-5D resulting in significant endpoint differences between the groups: EQ-5D (0.102, P = 0.001); self-rated health: 15.876 (P < 0.001); MMSE 1.701 (P < 0.001); depressive symptoms: - 3.072 (P < 0.001); all in favour of the intervention group. Improvements during the intervention in MMSE, self-rated health, and CES-D were significantly related to body weight gain in a linear way. CONCLUSION Cognitive function and mental well-being worsen or stagnate in older adults who receive standard care after hospital discharge. However, a six-month nutrition therapy improves these outcomes leading to statistically and clinically significant endpoint differences between the groups. As improvements were related to body weight gain after hospital discharge, we conclude that the increase in dietary intake, with focus on energy and protein density, and changes in body weight might have contributed to better cognitive function and mental well-being in older adults after the intervention.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Neurological ; Structural
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Nutritional therapy
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Psychosocial influences
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Psychological
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable
Bioactive Substances : Energy and protein-rich foods

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 3
Allocation concealment : Yes