BACKGROUND: Effective strategies to increase dietary intake in older persons with a poor appetite are needed. Previous studies have shown that increasing diet variety may increase dietary intake. This has not been tested in older adults with a poor appetite.
OBJECTIVE: We investigated if an increased variety of foods within a cooked meal results in a higher meal energy intake in older women with a poor appetite.
METHODS: This study was a randomized, controlled, cross-over trial among 19 older (>65 years) women with a poor appetite. Two cooked meals of similar weight and energy density (except starch) were served under standardized conditions on two weekdays: a test meal consisting of three different varieties of vegetables, meat or fish, and starch components, and a control meal without variety. Participants ate ad libitum and the actual consumed amounts and their nutritional content were calculated. Data were analyzed by mixed linear models.
RESULTS: Average intake in energy was 427 kcal (SD 119) for the test meal with variety and 341 kcal (SD 115) for the control meal without variety. This resulted in a statistically significant (for period effects adjusted) mean difference of 79 kcal (95% CI = 25-134). Total meal intake in grams was also higher for the test meal with variety (48 g, 95% CI = 1-97) but protein intake (g) was not (3.7 g, 95% CI = -1.4 to 8.8). This was consistent for all meal components except starch and within each component three varieties were consumed equally.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of the present study suggest that increasing meal variety may be an effective strategy to increase energy intake in older adults with a poor appetite.