Hospital food gets Michelin-star twist from Heston Blumenthal
Researchers looking at better ways of treating malnutrition of elderly in hospital given help by Heston Blumenthal
Tuesday, 04, May 2010 05:04
By Sarah Garrod.
Research into how hospital food can be made better for older people has received the attention of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
The Fat Duck Michelin-starred chef has been helping researchers at the University of Reading to enhance the taste of hospital food in a bid to prevent or treat malnutrition in older people.
The project - funded by Research into Ageing, the medical research arm of Age UK - is using a taste central to Japanese food to modify the sensory properties of food to increase its flavour. The researchers said 'deliciousness' in foods, especially savoury food, is enhanced by umami - which is known as the fifth taste and is the Japanese word for delicious and savoury.
Umami naturally occurs in shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes and tuna, and is commonly found in Marmite and Worcestershire sauce.
Blumenthal said: "Mealtimes should be something to be celebrated in hospital. They should be something to look forward to. Umami is a great way to rejuvenate the dining environment in hospital and improve the flavour in the mouth."
Dr Lisa Methven, lead researcher at the university, explained that the taste compounds are extracted from umami-rich ingredients and then a recipe developed with high levels of umami.
She said: "As people get older their taste and odour thresholds increase so they may need more flavour to taste sufficiently and enjoy food. Malnutrition is a particular problem for older adults in hospital and nursing home settings, and it can result in longer periods of illness, slower recovery from surgery and infection and increased mortality rates."
Once the researchers have perfected their recipes, the meals will be trialled on elderly care wards at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Professor James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK added: "With people in later life accounting for two thirds of all acute hospital in-patients, it is essential that more is done to improve nutrition in hospitals. Malnutrition can have a huge impact on the health of people in later life, especially those who are hospitalised, where diet plays such an important role in recovery."