Why mushrooms are key to aged care nutrition

Australian Mushroom Growers

Thursday, 25 January, 2024

Why mushrooms are key to aged care nutrition

One in four Australians are vitamin D deficient — with older people being at greater risk — and mushrooms may hold the key for prevention.

A research study will be carried out by FOODiQ and Australian Mushrooms in partnership with The Shoreline Luxury Retirement Living in Coffs Harbour, focusing on enhancing vitamin D and overall nutrient intake among aged care residents.

The ‘Mushrooms on the Menu’ study explores the impact of incorporating a specially crafted chef- and dietitian-designed mushroom-based menu in the Shoreline residential aged care centre. It will also investigate the feasibility of adding vitamin D-rich mushrooms to the menu — as well as the impact on nutritional intakes of the aged care facility residents — and their overall enjoyment of the menu.

Why mushrooms?

Mushrooms are the only natural non-animal source of vitamin D, which is is crucial for immunity and bone health.3 This is especially important for older people who may not be outdoors enough to obtain adequate vitamin D through the sun and other sources. Three UV-exposed cups of mushrooms can fulfil an older person’s entire daily vitamin D requirements.

“Research shows that many residents in aged care facilities have insufficient vitamin D. By simply including UV-exposed mushrooms in aged care menus, it could boost their vitamin D intake and potentially solve a serious nutritional issue in aged care facilities with a ‘food as medicine’ approach,” said Dr Flávia Fayet-Moore, CEO of FOODiQ Global.

“Mushrooms have a unique umami and meaty taste profile, making it an excellent ingredient to ‘blend’ with minced meat to boost nutrient intake in a population at high risk of nutrient inadequacies. Mushrooms have no saturated fat and contain other essential vitamins and minerals such as B-vitamins.”

How will the study be conducted?

Shoreline residents will be provided with chef- and dietitian-crafted meals and meal plans containing at least 75 g of vitamin D-enriched mushrooms per person each day for 28 days. A nutritional analysis will be conducted before, during and after the phase of increased mushroom consumption. Independent living residents will also be supplied with a punnet of mushrooms each week and a recipe booklet so they can consume the recommended daily mushroom servings throughout the program.

Participating residents will be aged 65+ — an age group that is more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Indeed, up to 80% of women and 70% of men living in nursing homes in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia are found to be deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with higher risk of falls in this group, with vitamin D supplementation shown to improve fall rate, meaning this study could improve the wellbeing and livelihood of many residents in aged care facilities.

The mushrooms used in the study are the Agaricus Bisporus variety, or cup mushrooms, high-quality produce grown by Australian mushroom farmers in controlled environments. The cup mushrooms will already be exposed to sunlight in order to maximise vitamin D content before they are provided to residents.

The Shoreline ‘Mushrooms On The Menu’ study is part of a three-year research project with FOODiQ Global managed by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association and funded by Hort Innovation using the mushroom research and development levy funds from the Australian Government.

“We’re glad we can offer our 150 residents helpful nutrition solutions to optimise health and wellbeing. Eating well is so important and vitamin D deficiency is an issue amongst adults that needs to be addressed, so we’re looking forward to seeing the results of increased vitamin D intake,” said Tammie Breneger, Director of Care at The Shoreline.

Image credit: iStock.com/skynesher

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