Former Fonterra director Leonie Guiney says the co-op is facing a crisis of confidence.
The co-op is partnering with 24 science and nutrition organisations in the project. Older people in many countries, including New Zealand, are at higher risk of health issues because of poor nutrition.
The five-year project, ‘The Prevention of Malnutrition in Senior Subjects in the EU’, is investigating the role of diet and appetite in malnutrition and functional decline of people over 70 years.
Fonterra director NZMP medical nutrition Maarten van Beek says the research findings will help the co-op develop new food products that prevent malnutrition and support active and healthy ageing.
Almost 75% of older NZ adults in a recent Massey University study led by associate professor Carol Wham were found to be at risk of malnourishment, or were malnourished, when they were admitted to hospital.
“Older people need more protein to support good health, as malnourishment can cause muscle shrinking and other health-related problems,” van Beek says. “The findings should offer valuable insights into the best ways to incorporate more protein into their diets.
“A key focus of NZMP’s medical nutrition work is to develop tasty protein-rich products for the normal diet for older people.”
The project’s food trials will assess taste, and mobility and muscle outcomes; research participants will add NZMP protein-fortified products to their regular diets, including a coconut protein water, chocolate and vanilla pudding and rice pudding.
“Not only does improved nutrition make a difference at an individual level, it can also help to reduce strain on healthcare systems,” van Beek says.
NZMP, Fonterra’s dairy ingredients brand, makes dairy nutrition products to help people recover from malnutrition and stay healthy and active as they age.
The co-op says the functional foods market for seniors will likely be worth $95.8 billion by 2022.