Malnutrition costs billions

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A lack of nutrition causes billions in the health care system.

(21.06.2010) Many people in Germany are malnourished and this causes billions in costs in the health care system. The German Society for Nutritional Medicine (DGEM) points to this aspect at the "Nutrition 2010" congress.

Malnutrition in one of the richest countries in the world shouldn't be. However, the German Society for Nutritional Medicine points to the ever higher costs in the health system because more and more people, especially older people, are malnourished. No wonder, a flood of cheap ready meals and fast food inevitably leads to malnutrition. If those affected become chronically ill, this factor increases again.

According to the DGEM, hospitals have to cover the largest share of these costs with around five billion euros. Because, according to the experts, almost every third to fourth patient is malnourished. Additional costs arise in nursing care with around 2.6 billion euros and in outpatient nursing care with 1.3 billion euros per year.

DGEM declares the cause of the increased costs to be the older age of patients suffering from cancer and multiple illnesses. These are "the main factors for malnutrition," said Arved Weimann from DGEM. Malnutrition leads to a longer recovery process and thus to longer hospital stays. Risk groups are geriatric patients, people with malignant tumors and patients with severe chronic diseases, especially before organ transplantation. "With additional costs of around nine billion euros per year for the German healthcare system, the expenses are considerable even without considering indirect economic and private costs," explained Weimann.

Times will not improve. The costs could increase rapidly again by 2020. The DGEM anticipates an increase of around 25 percent to around 11 billion euros. For this reason, the specialist society demands targeted nutrition management. In many cases, nutritional therapy that is applied in good time could dismiss the healthcare system and improve the quality of life of patients. (sb)

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