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Poor appetites need nutrition with appeal

Undernourishment is a real problem for hospital patients. A small appetite, often combined with an impaired sense of taste or swallowing difficulties, mean that many don’t eat enough to maintain their weight and speed up their recovery. Overall, around 40% of hospital patients are believed to be at nutritional risk.

Among the high-protein foods available for hospital nutrition, most tend to have a heavy texture and taste that patients find unappealing. They rarely manage to eat a whole serving as a result.

In search of an alternative
At Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark, a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, researchers and kitchen staff joined forces with DuPont Nutrition & Health to change that. The goal was to formulate a protein and fiber-rich alternative to conventional protein-enriched ice cream that patients will enjoy.

“We know about the physiological needs of patients, but it is difficult for us to translate that into food. It’s a huge benefit for us that we can draw on the knowledge and expertise of DuPont,” says Marie Nerup Mortensen, the human nutrition specialist responsible for the hospital’s food and meals.

A light sherbet snack
In close collaboration with the hospital, the ice cream application team at DuPont set out by developing a fresh-tasting frozen sherbet in two flavor variants: blackcurrant and raspberry. The aim was to provide patients with a light, refreshing snack that provides a good dose of nutrients without filling them up – and which is convenient to serve straight from the freezer at any time of day.

DuPont then produced 50 servings of each flavor variant in its ice cream application center in Denmark. These were used for the first trials, when cancer patients were invited to try them. 

“The feedback was that they liked the texture but the flavor should be stronger,” says Mortensen.

An attractive proposition
That was when DuPont contacted Aabybro Dairy, a local ice cream manufacturer that already produced energy-dense ice cream products for hospital patients under the Ryaa Is brand name. For owner and CEO Niels Henrik Lindhardt, it was an attractive proposition from the start.

“It’s usually very expensive for us to develop a new product. So this project was of great interest, as we were able to make use of a pre-developed concept, and we knew that there were customers ready to buy it.”

Lindhardt introduced fruit concentrates to the recipes – boosting the flavor and increasing the number of variants from two to five.

Bioavailable nutrients
In all recipes, the protein source is whey protein concentrate, which the body can quickly absorb. The source of highly soluble fiber is Litesse® polydextrose, recognized for its positive effect on digestive health and known as the ‘invisible’ fiber due to its neutral sensory impact.

Fructose and glucose provide sweetness and energy, while the addition of the tailored emulsifier and stabilizer blend CREMODAN® Sorbetline 250 gives the sherbets a pleasant, not-too-cold texture that melts on the tongue.

Both Litesse® polydextrose and CREMODAN® Sorbetline 250 are well-tried ingredients from the DuPont™ Danisco® range.

Ready for production
In a second round of acceptability testing in the cancer, respiratory and gastroenterology wards at Aalborg University Hospital, the patients showed an overwhelming preference for the chocolate, lime and blackcurrant sherbet variants. These will now go into production at Aabybro Dairy, joining the portfolio of Ryaa Is products.

“Usually it is hard for us to take our nutritional requirements directly to a food manufacturer. Through this cooperation, we have been part of creating a product that we know there is a need for,” Mortensen says.

“We hope it will mean patients will consume more protein, fiber and energy. This will help them recover faster and with fewer complications and make them better able to withstand their treatment.”
The next development project – a juice-based energy drink – is already underway, she adds.