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  • Nutrition


Malnutrition occurs when the body is not getting enough of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and can develop if a person stops eating properly, or if the body needs more nutrients than normal (e.g. due to infection). Malnutrition can have an impact on both physical and mental health; symptoms include weight loss, tiredness and a lack of energy.

Malnutrition is a serious problem, with more than three million people in the UK either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.1 Although the condition can encompass both overnutrition and undernutrition, this website focuses on undernutrition. Most at risk of malnutrition are people with chronic diseases, those who have been recently discharged from hospital and people living alone or the elderly.2 Malnutrition is common in all patient groups and across all age groups.1 In this section we discuss malnutrition as it applies to adults.

Malnutrition causes a wide range of problems including increased risk of infections, weakness and fatigue, apathy, depression, fertility and libido problems, slow recovery from illness and poor wound healing.2

Malnutrition in England has an annual cost of £19.6bn, representing 15% of total public expenditure on health and social care.1

Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres (kg/m2).

Click here to check your BMI.

Nutritional Screening3

This is the first step in identifying subjects who may be at nutritional risk or potentially at risk, and who may benefit from appropriate nutritional intervention. It is a rapid, simple and general procedure so that clear guidelines for action can be implemented and appropriate nutritional advice provided. Some subjects may just need help and advice with eating and drinking whereas others may need to be referred to more expert advice.

There are may nutrition screening tools in use across the world. However, the most commonly used screening tool in all care setting in the UK is the ‘Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool’ (‘MUST’).

For individuals and/or their carers who are concerned about malnutrition, BAPEN (British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition) launched the Malnutrition Self-Screening Tool. To use the tool Click here

Nutritional Management

Nutritional screening is undertaken to identify people with, or at risk of, malnutrition. Once the level of malnutrition has been determined, and depending on the individual, there are various types of management that can help patients overcome malnutrition. These include fortification of food with additional nutrients, adding snacks to increase nutritional or energy intake, and dietary counselling. Oral nutritional supplements (ONS) can be a simple way to obtain extra nutrition. In some cases, additional or full nutrition may be given via a feeding tube.


Ensure range

Abbott’s oral nutritional supplements for adults and older children include the Ensure range. The range includes milkshake, yoghurt, juice and savoury styles, as well as a dessert style (crème) and a low volume supplement. Ensure Plus comes in a variety of great-tasting flavours. Abbott also provides an oral nutritional supplement specifically designed for patients over the age of 65 years who have, or are at risk of, malnutrition. Please click here for more information regarding Ensure Plus Advance.

Abbott Tube Feeding range

Our tube feeds are designed for people who cannot take in all of the calories and nutrients they need by mouth. Tube feeding usually starts in hospital, and involves delivering a nutritionally complete, liquid feed directly into the stomach or small bowel via a narrow tube. Once the individual leaves hospital, the person, or their carer, will be trained on how to manage feeding at home.

To find out more about any particular product in our wide range of adult and older children feeds, please click here.


  1. BSNA, 2018: Forgotten not Fixed: Tacking the Increasing Burden of Malnutrition in England.
    Last accessed: June 2020
  2. BAPEN, 2009.
    Last accessed: June 2020
  3. BAPEN, 2018:
    Last accessed: June 2020

Date of preparation June 2020 UK-ENSP-2000005

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