UQ research to improve food for elderly

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 2nd June 2008

A new industry grant, to a team University of Queensland researchers, is expected to lead to an improvement in foods provided to elderly patients with swallowing difficulties.

Led by the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology’s (AIBN) Associate Professor Peter Halley, the multidisciplinary team will bring a more scientific process to the design of texture modified foods. “About 40 percent of elderly people have difficulty chewing and swallowing food, and this difficulty has an obvious flow on effect for their health in terms of nutrition, well being and general quality of life,” he said. “Current texture modified foods have been made largely by trial and error processes generating desired levels of texture, however overall most texture modification processes tend to make foods considerably less appealing in terms of appearance, flavour and aroma.”

“By applying rheology (the study of the flow of fluids), developing a new texture models and looking at the nutrition and swallowing behaviour of the foods, this project aims to bring a more scientific approach to the formulation and design of novel texture modified food,” he added. “The outcome will hopefully be more appealing, safe to swallow foods that will improve the general well being of our elderly.”

According to Associate Professor Halley this successful grant builds on 10 years of collaborative work between the investigators, who come from UQ’s AIBN, the Schools of Chemical Engineering (Dr Tim Nicholson), Molecular and Microbial Sciences (Associate Professor Leigh Ward), Land, Crop and Food Science (Associate Professor Bhesh Bhandari) and Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (Dr Julie Cichero).

It also links with industry partner RSL Care, one of Australia’s most respected, not-for-profit providers of home care, retirement living and residential care to the ex-service and wider communities. RSL Care will be heavily involved in all stages of development due to their significant experience in texture modified foods.