Improving nutrition for the elderly and people with special needs

November 12, 2020




Ten companies in the region have launched the NUTRI + project to develop food for the elderly and/or people with swallowing problems and other population groups with specific nutritional deficits.

The research, which will run until November 2022, has been selected by the Government of Navarra as part of the call for strategic R&D projects. This call selects projects that address strategic challenges for Navarra, in this case, in the areas of Personalised and Sustainable Food.

"Good nutrition is essential to prevent the onset of pathologies and improve the quality of life of vulnerable people with specific needs. These include people over 70 years of age, people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses or those who have suffered some kind of brain damage such as stroke, paraplegia or tetraplegia," explains Diana Ansorena, professor at the University of Navarra and researcher on the project.

The aim of the different research groups is to develop ingredients, foods and diets that are nutritionally balanced and/or have a healthy functional profile, with textures adapted to chewing and swallowing problems, and that are visually appealing.

The NUTRI+ project involves the collaboration of both private companies and public entities from different fields and sectors, as well as agents from the Navarra R&D&I System, SINAI. The consortium is led by Domusvi, the largest network of nursing homes, disability and mental health care centres and day care centres in Spain. Also participating are ADACEN (Brain Injury Association of Navarra), companies from the agri-food sector such as Frisa, Grupo Alimentario IAN, Tutti Pasta and Cocuus; public institutions such as the Navarra Hospital Complex and research entities such as the University of Navarra, CNTA and the SINAI coordinator itself, ADItech.

Texture development through 3D printing, high-pressure and other technologies

"At CNTA we will research the development of textures adapted for this type of population, relying on technologies such as 3D-laser-injekt printing, high pressure or new texturisers and analytical methods such as rheology," says researcher Leyre Urtasun.

On the other hand, the functionality of the nutrients of interest will also be studied, using cell culture techniques and/or tests on more complex organisms such as Caenorhabditis elegans. "All this with the aim of contributing to improving the health of people with swallowing problems and, consequently, their quality of life," adds Nerea Sastre, from CNTA.

Thus, during the first phase of the project, the nutritional and sensory needs of the target populations will be investigated. Based on the information obtained, products will be developed which, in a later phase, will be evaluated in the health centres to check whether the objectives set out are really being achieved.

Diario de Navarra

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