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Dietotherapy: the pleasure of eating, even with dysphagia

A swallowing disorder that affects around 6 million people in Italy, with a peak of 45% for those over the age of 65. Sufferers of dysphagia are unable to enjoy the pleasure of a tasty meal, even to the extent of causing a state of malnutrition. However, there are foods available that are studied specifically to restore flavour and consistency. A recent study by the University of Pavia proposes a new form of “dietotherapy”, with food prepared specifically for patients suffering from these disorders.

Dysphagia is a true disorder. Sufferers have a reduced or altered ability to chew and swallow food, and consequently to correctly pass the food bolus into the gastrointestinal tract. It is a disorder that is particularly widespread among the elderly, but that can affect people of all ages: dysphagia can also occur as a consequence of a stroke, neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, tumours or cardiovascular problems. People with dysphagia have extreme difficulty in feeding themselves correctly, to the extent that every meal can prove to be a torturous experience. The most serious cases can lead to severe malnutrition, with up to a 20% loss in weight and a whole series of consequences for the organism, such as a weakening of the immune system and general physical fatigue. It can also lead to a worsening of pressure sores for bed-ridden patient.

In order to restore the pleasure of eating for sufferers of this disorder, there are a wide range of foods with modified consistency that have been created expressly to be chewed and swallowed more easily. In particular, a recent study carried out by the University of Pavia put together a complete dietotherapy. It consists of a diet based on particular foods cooked vacuum-packed at low temperature, with calibrated weight and consistency, which are safe and nutritious. However, visual impact is also important in eating. The food in this diet has been created to be pleasant-looking and brightly coloured, differing every day of the week.

The study involved 25 patients with dysphagia and took place at the Social Services Agency (ASP) of Pavia, the geriatric department of the city’s university. The researchers put together and “served” varied and balanced menus, with different dishes for every day of the week. The dishes were a reinterpretation of typical and traditional recipes, balanced in terms of macro- and micro-nutrients, and cooked vacuum-packed at low temperature with continuous cooling. This method of preparation allows the chemical, physical and organoleptic characteristics of food to be preserved unaltered, keeping the dispersion of nutrients such as vitamins and mineral salts to a minimum, in contrast to conventional cooking methods in which they are often reduced or lost completely.

The results?

After 3 months of dietotherapy, the researchers saw an 11% increase in the consumption and enjoyment of food, leading to an increase in weight of approximately 3%, with a consequent improvement in overall health.
Acting on the consistency and flavour of food is therefore a winning strategy in aiding sufferers of dysphagia. Attention should, however, also be paid to liquids. Thickening a liquid beverage is in fact an especially useful strategy in aiding swallowing. There are a wide range of products on sale, among which we cite Valblan, ready to use gelled water, available in a range of flavours, which helps sufferers of dysphagia to assume the correct quantity of liquids while still enjoying a pleasant taste.

Valentina Torchia, Scientific Journalist and Medical Biotechnician, holder of a master’s degree in Communication and Health in Contemporary Media.

Source: https://www.adnkronos.com/salute/medicina/2019/04/13/disfagia-ora-cucina-scienza-nuovi-cibi-della-dietoterapia_w6kdkRD4AmfMZFQRQAniPN.html?refresh_ce

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