Grant will fund landmark study on food intake in long-term care

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A landmark study aimed at improving the food intake, health and quality of life of older adults in long-term care homes is among three projects at the University of Waterloo receiving close to $1.5 million in grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Professor Heather Keller, of the Department of Kinesiology, and a Schlegel research chair in nutrition and aging, will receive $979,000 over two years to investigate why many Canadians living in long-term care homes are poorly nourished. The project marks the first research into factors impacting food intake in long-term care settings.

“We know that food intake in long-term care tends to be poor, and that residents have poor nutrition as a result. But what we don’t know is why,” said Professor Keller. “Is the food unappealing? Is the setting institutional? Are residents having physical trouble eating?”

To conduct the complex study, teams of researchers will monitor the food intake patterns of 800 randomly selected residents in 32 long-term care homes located in four different provinces. The pioneering project will evaluate how factors like meal quality, food access and mealtime experience impact food consumption.

“It’s not just one thing impacting food intake.  If we can understand broadly what is happening, what are the big deterrents to food intake, we can successfully intervene on a large scale,” said Professor Keller. “Poor food intake is both preventable and treatable.”

The study’s findings are expected to help optimize health-care practices and enhance the quality of life of Canada’s aging population.