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May 12, 2004

Nutritional Content of Hospital Diets

JAMA. 2004;291(18):2194-2196. doi:10.1001/jama.291.18.2194

To the Editor: Hospitalized elderly patients have a relatively high risk for malnutrition.1 While some of this problem may be related to factors such as preexisting malnutrition, lack of appetite, or inability to eat, it is not known to what degree clinically indicated restricted diets contribute to such deficiencies.


We analyzed commonly prescribed diets served in 2 US hospitals. One was a large private not-for-profit academic research-oriented medical center serviced by a well-known commercially contracted hospital food service and the other was a large metropolitan Veterans Affairs medical center with an in-house dietary department. Amounts of ingredients for recipes for every item served in the 7 prescribed meal plans in both hospitals were recorded in a comprehensive database that allowed precise nutritional analyses by weight of food serving. The data included ingredients used in literally thousands of recipes; for instance, 1 hospital had more than 50 different recipes for green beans. Nutritional information supplied by the manufacturer of prepackaged foods was used when available.

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