Jul 11, 2023

Got milk? Increased dairy intake could save the health system millions

Improving food and nutrition in aged care has been a process over the last decade. [Source: Shutterstock]

A clinical trial has suggested Australia’s healthcare and aged care systems could save about $66 million a year if aged care residents upped their intake of dairy and protein.

Key points:

  • Economic analysis by Monash University found that aged care homes would only have to increase the dairy on their menus by an estimated 66 cents per day, per resident to meet the requirement
  • This equates to a saving of $175 for every aged care resident each year
  • The findings are based on an earlier clinical trial by the University of Melbourne and Austin Health involving more than 7000 aged care residents from 60 Melbourne and regional aged care homes
  • The research was funded by nine global dairy research foundations and three philanthropic organisations, including Dairy Australia but they allegedly had no role in conducting the study and collecting data

The savings would account for a drop in the need for ambulance transport, hospital admissions, rehabilitation and extra care requirements in residential facilities.

The clinical trial involved altering aged care menus to swap foods for or add foods such as milk-based coffees, cheese and crackers or yoghurt. It was aimed to improve best practice in aged care around food and nutrition.

“Our analysis confirms – in order to prevent fractures and reduce the flow-on effects to public health and individual care costs, implementing a nutritional intervention in these settings is critical,” Monash Centre for Medicine Use and Safety, Professor Zanfina Ademi, told Australian Associated Press.

The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety expressed the importance of good quality food and nutrition for older people and it has been heavily documented that older people need more protein in their diet. 

Julie Dundon, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian at Nutrition Professionals Australia (NPA), said older people need at least 30g of protein, equating to about 100g of meat, at every main meal of an adequate serving size to fulfil the amount of protein needed in a day.

If an older person was served inadequate foods as a main meal – such as party pies, pizza and fish fingers – they would need to eat about six party pies, two-and-a-half cups of tinned spaghetti and 29 spring rolls to meet their daily protein requirement. 

“They’re things to have in between meals.”

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