• nutritional supplements;
  • acute illness;
  • older people;
  • quality of life

OBJECTIVES: To test the effect of nutritional support on older patient's quality of life.

DESIGN: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted from March 2001 to January 2004.

SETTING: United Kingdom.

PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred twenty-five hospitalized acutely ill older patients.

INTERVENTION: Normal hospital diet plus 400-mL oral nutritional supplements daily for 6 weeks. The composition of the supplement was such as to provide 995 kcal for energy and 100% of the Reference Nutrient Intakes for a healthy older person for vitamins and minerals.

MEASUREMENTS: Baseline, 6-week, and 6-month nutritional status and quality of life.

RESULTS: Randomization to the supplement group led to significantly better quality-of-life scores than in the placebo group at 6 months but not at 6 weeks, after adjustment for baseline quality of life, age, and sex. The effect of supplementation was seen in higher physical function, role physical, and social function scores. Corresponding treatment effects were 7.0 (95% confidence interval (CI)=0.5–13.6, P=.04), 10.2 (95% CI=0.1–20.2, P=.047), and 7.8 (95% CI=0.0–15.5, P=.05), respectively. There was no evidence of difference in Barthel scores at 6 months.

CONCLUSION: Oral nutritional supplementation of acutely ill hospitalized older patients led to a statistically significant benefit in quality of life.