When I first started out in my Dietetic training I was profoundly aware of the part that healthy, balanced nutrition could have on public health, however, once I was working in the NHS it became clear just how big of a burden poor nutrition was placing on the NHS workforce. It was clear that something had to be done, the hospitals couldn’t afford or accommodate more staff and the cost of care was going up and up!
Public health refers to the overall health of the population as a whole, it is usually monitored and governed by the state, so a big emphasis is placed on tax payers services like the NHS. The NHS is struggling due to a growing population and overall poor health, and one of the main causes of this poor health epidemic is diet, particularly overeating and over drinking.
Don’t forget undernutrition!
Get this, just because someone is overweight doesn’t mean they are nourished. Somebody can be obese and yet still be deficient in vitamins, minerals and some key macronutrients such as protein. A lot of overweight people gorge on empty calories i.e. foods that are high in energy but low in vitamins and minerals, consequently they put on weight whilst missing out on key nutrients.
A place for nutritional supplements
So we know that overweight people can be malnourished as much as underweight people, but the health implications of being malnourished when you’re already underweight are unprecedented because simply… you have virtually no reserves whatsoever! An overweight person can survive for longer without certain nutrients because their body converts muscle stores (protein and fat) into the nutrients it is short of. However even this has its limitations in that essential nutrients (such as certain amino acids and essential fatty acids) cannot be made from inside the body, meaning there is a real risk of malnutrition even in overweight people.
What the research says…
This is where nutritional supplements come into their own! Exactly 19 international research papers that looked into the use of nutritional supplements and saving money were used to assess overall benefit of supplements. They found that the use of supplements caused an overall net cost saving to the care systems, primarily the NHS.
How do supplements save money?
Surely giving people nutritional supplements on the NHS costs the NHS money, right? Well yes, the one off purchase of the supplements does cost, but not as much as the treatment plan for obesity, malnutrition and poor recovery from certain interventions such as surgery and post falls costs them. A paper by BAPEN found that UK public spending on disease related malnutrition back in 2007 (and its only getting worse) came to around £13 billion, more than ¾ of which was in England.
The use of nutritional supplements is known to improve quality of life in individuals, and a good quality of life is surely what living is all about. Proper nutrition from a protein and nutrient dense supplement was seen to reduce infection risk, repeat admissions into hospital, and reduced fall risk in the elderly. Above all this, the use of nutritional supplements was seen to reduce hospital admissions by 16.5%, a massive number when you consider the UK has a population of 63 million!
What supplements to go for?
More than 3 million people are malnourished in the UK at any given time, a shocking figure that can be significantly reduced by nutrition education and the proper use of nutritional supplements. Don’t get me wrong, not all nutritional supplements will deliver vitamins and minerals in the quantities you need, but many do, and if you want to give yourself the best chance of staying nourished then consume a consistently balanced diet along with a structured supplement regime. One of the best ways to go is to combine a good quality whey protein supplement with a complete Multi-vitamin and mineral, this way you will topping up your most important nutrients and micronutrients.
Nutraingredients.com, (2015). Supplements save public health money: Review. Retrieved 5th August, 2015, from http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Supplements-save-public-health-money-Review/?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=05-Aug-2015&c=FN21qK%2FOpvJPk0xa78HLmHDvbKf3k26R&p2=