What does sustainable nutrition mean for the critically ill?

Sustainable, valuable nutrition for patients and elderly. 

19 Dec 2019

6 min

#Blog #Global #Medical Nutrition

For people coping with a disease or working on their recovery after an accident, trauma or surgery, it’s often a struggle to eat and digest what’s nutritionally best to support healing. 

Nutrition in times of stress may not be their first priority.  For the NZMP Medical Nutrition and Healthy Ageing unit, it is ours.

Getting quality nutrition and sufficient protein in a small package is important for patients. Consuming dairy protein is one of the most effective ways for the unwell to reach their inflated protein needs.  

NZMP Medical Nutrition has a focus on innovation with high-quality dairy protein ingredients. This includes working to provide patients with flavours and textures they enjoy to reduce food waste, while the high nutrient density of the product helps aid recovery. Our New Zealand pasture-based cows and the full use of each drop of milk reduces food waste, minimises wasted resources used in food production such as water and energy, and has a lower greenhouse gas emission profile compared with milk substitutes.

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Fonterra. We align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, our contribution being through the nutrition we produce and the way we produce it.

Fonterra dairy farmers in New Zealand, one of the main regions we source our ingredients from, can make a litre of milk for 60% fewer emissions than the global average, and 90% fewer than the least efficient producers on the planet.

NZMP Medical Nutrition

Inflated dietary requirements and low appetite define the challenge for patient nutrition

Providing suitable nutrition for patients who struggle to consume enough for healing is a balance. Nutrition requirements for recovery vary widely and can arise at any time in life, and not just in later years as many believe.

Recovery from surgery or trauma such as a broken bone required sufficient protein, with a focus on single nutrients such as Vitamin C, Zinc, and Calcium to support bone health and normal wound healing. 

If the body is particularly inflame, in such situations such as chronic diseases, such as lung disorders, or cancer, systemic inflammation can develop which increases protein and energy requirements. At the same time, appetite is often reduced significantly, and in some diseases, the body has less ability to utilise nutrients. Sustainable nutrition must start with valuable nutrition

Factors to consider for patients needing nutritional solutions include aseptic packaging, concentrated nutrition, palatability, tailored nutrition for different diseases, as well as meeting relevant regualtory guidelines.  

Sustainable nutrition starts with valuable nutrition

To address the world’s increasing nutritional requirements, alongside rising rates of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency, the sustainability of food production is imperative.

Nutrient density is the proportion of total nutrients in the food according to its volume. It’s an important consideration in food for people that are unwell because they need all the goodness of that food, in a small package. Nutrient density is also a useful measure to consider while working to limit environmental impact, such as for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Studies comparing the nutrient density of different products have shown that milk has less GHG emissions per unit of nutrient density than milk substitutes, such as soy, rice, and coconut.

As a natural source of 16 essential nutrients, dairy proteins help alleviate micronutrient deficiencies, and their high density of nutrients help improve overall sustainability. Compared to plant-based protein, dairy protein is substantially higher (30%) in nutritional quality than plant-based proteins.[1]

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NZMP Medical Nutrition

The environmental footprint of dairy is less than soy- and rice-based substitutes when considering nutrient density.[2]  

When we consider the sustainability of nutrition, food waste is an important factor.  According to the FAO, around one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes.  As a result, food waste contributes to the waste of resources such as water and energy and contributes to GHG emissions.  By helping reduce food waste, and improving consumption through nutrition quality, the footprint of food production can be reduced.

In patients with diseases or who are in recovery, food waste can be difficult to avoid.  Factors such as low appetite, poor digestion, and the side-effects of illness and medication can lead to unfinished products being discarded.  That’s why our ingredient innovation and product testing aim to make the most of every drop of milk. Both for improved patient recovery and sustainability.

By providing nutrient-dense, and low footprint dairy ingredients, we contribute to sustainable nutrition.  We can also help address the global food waste challenge, by reducing food waste and ensuring every drop of milk produced is used.

Making the most of every drop

The NZMP Medical Nutrition and Healthy Ageing unit draw on research, insights and anecdotal evidence to underpin our patient-centred innovation. Research shows that taste and texture are important to get right, so the challenge of impaired appetite is best addressed. Our goal is that patients consume the majority of their medical nutrition supplements. To achieve this we focus on innovation that’s been shown to count.

FMCG Guru's data shows patients have clear preferences for flavours and mouthfeel with their medical beverages.  An enjoyable medical nutrition supplement will have an acceptable flavour and a thin and light mouthfeel, so they are more likely to finish it. This preference for palatability is complemented by a range of formats, flavours, and opportunities to incorporate medical nutrition into their favourite foods.[1]

At Fonterra, we work with our customers to help them develop products using ingredients that encourage patients to enjoy and finish compact nutrition. The benefits are numerous, including providing sustainably produced nutrition for patients, contributing to their recovery and wellness, and reducing the impact of food production on the world’s natural resources. 

Cows grazing on grass

How does Fonterra contribute to a sustainable future?

In Fonterra, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. Our strategy is aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and those which we can provide a critical contribution to, through the nutrition we produce and the way we produce it.

We know that we can’t address these challenges alone and that by working collaboratively we can deliver change at scale.  In the Medical Nutrition and Healthy Ageing unit, we are committed to partnering with our customers to pioneer innovations for patients and healthy seniors with our broad range of dairy ingredients and solutions, from the milk produced by our 10,000 farming families in New Zealand.

We are committed to producing high-quality nutrition for the lowest footprint.  Dairy has a role to play in meeting the world's nutritional challenges, but to do this we need to ensure dairy is sustainably produced. Dairy produced from efficient pasture-based farming systems, such as those from New Zealand, can also help to reduce the carbon footprint of dairy production.  

Dairy farmers in New Zealand, one of the main regions we source our NZMP ingredients, can make a litre of milk for over 60% less emissions than the global average, and 90% less than the least efficient producers on the planet.[3]

By providing nutrient dense, and low footprint ingredients, we can contribute to sustainable nutrition.  And we can help address the global food waste challenge, by reducing food waste and ensuring we make the most of every drop of milk produced.

Discover more about Fonterra's sustainability efforts

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