Student dietitians discuss the importance of good nutrition and hydration | Our news

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Student dietitians discuss the importance of good nutrition and hydration

16 March marks the start of Nutrition and Hydration week! 

Student Dietitians Catherine and Vasiliki have come together to highlight and promote the provision of nutrition and hydration for our patients. 

In the UK, 3 million individuals are estimated to be malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. Prevention of malnutrition and dehydration can improve patient’s health and well-being as well as reducing hospital length of stay. With increasing financial pressures on the NHS, addressing preventative measures for malnutrition is an important area to focus on.

On Monday 16 March, there will be an information stand St’ Barts Hospital to provide some information advice on how those going through radiotherapy can optimise their nutrition and hydration and how our staff can best support patients.

Why is nutrition important for patients?

During periods of illness, patients are at higher risk of malnutrition because they may not be getting enough energy, protein or other nutrients to meet their nutritional requirements. This can be either due to burden of the disease, side effects of treatment or various other related complications that can affect appetite, food digestion and absorption. Malnutrition is best detected using the validated Malnutrition University Screening Tool (MUST) (Elia, 2003). This screening tool accounts for BMI, unplanned weight loss in the past 3 - 6 months, acute illness or no nutritional intake for more than 5 days. It is a quick and easy way of identifying at risk patients, e.g. those with a MUST score of 2+, who can then benefit from interventions such as dietary counselling, food fortification and oral nutritional supplements.

Treating Malnutrition - Oral Nutritional Supplements

If a patients’ energy and protein needs cannot be met through food alone and a patient scores 2 or more on the MUST screening tool, oral nutritional supplements (ONS) can be considered. The aim of ONS is to increase the energy and/or protein intake of the diet to ultimately optimise their nutritional status. ONS are available in many different forms to suit a wide range of needs and preferences. Below is a table outlining some of the different types available to patients in the Trust. Their use should be constantly monitored and reviewed to ensure they are appropriate for the patients’ needs.


The different types and names of available ONS.



Rationale for use

Milk-based type

Fresubin Energy, Fresubin 2kcal, Fresubin 3.2kcal

Nutritious and available in a wide range of flavours to suit patient taste. Fibre options available too.

Juice type

Fresubin Jucy

Fat free and an alternative for patients that do not enjoy milk based drinks

High protein

Fresubin Protein Energy
Fortisip compact protein

For patients with higher protein requirements e.g. in cancer patients

High energy powders


For patients that can tolerate higher volumes, ideally to be made with ~200ml blue top whole milk to provide both energy and protein

Low volume but high energy (shots)

Fresubin 5kcal,

For patients with little appetite but high energy requirements

Semi-solid type

Fresubin 2kcal Crème

Provide a mousse like texture that is smooth but semi-solid for patients


In summary, all in-patients should be screened for malnutrition using the MUST tool. For patients who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, nutritional support can be considered to optimise clinical outcomes and shorten hospital stay.


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