Malnutrition is known to worsen health conditions and increase likelihood of complications, hospital readmissions and even death but it is relatively common in older populations. Up to one in two older adults admitted to the hospital is malnourished many of whom are not even aware of their condition.

Results of a new clinical trial, which were published in Clinical Nutrition on Jan. 18, show that a specialized oral nutrition supplement was linked with 50 percent reduction in death rate among older malnourished patients who were diagnosed with lung or heart disease.

The number provides evidence of a highly effective therapy and suggests that the specialized nutrition supplement could save one in every 21 patients within this population.

For the Nutrition effect On Unplanned Readmissions and Survival in Hospitalized patients (NOURISH) study which involved 652 adults who were at least 65 years old, the researchers compared the effects of the nutrition supplement which comes with a muscle preserving ingredient, Vitamin D and 20 grams of protein to those of a placebo.

The researchers found that patients who were given the supplement had 50 percent lower death rate compared with those in the placebo group. They likewise observed improvements in body weight, vitamin D levels and nutritional status of those taking the specialized nutrition supplement 90 days after leaving the hospital.

"Compared with placebo, HP-HMB resulted in improved odds of better nutritional status at day 90, and an increase in body weight at day 30," the researchers wrote in their study. "Although no effects were observed for the primary composite endpoint, compared with placebo HP-HMB decreased mortality and improved indices of nutritional status during the 90-day observation period."

Study researcher Nicolaas Deutz, from Texas A&M University, said that the results of the study provide proof that there is a need to change standards to include nutrition as crucial part of care to help adults who are already have or have chances of suffering from chronic illnesses and malnutrition.

 "For the people in this study who were ill and malnourished, nutrition was critical to survival because it helps keep your body, especially your muscles, functioning properly," said Deutz.

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