The role of nutrition in geriatric rehabilitation

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Purpose of review

To highlight the importance of nutrition in older adults undergoing a rehabilitation program. Geriatric rehabilitation aims at the recovery of physical abilities for a largely independent life in the community. The term ‘geriatric rehabilitation’ is wide and includes inpatient and ambulatory care as well as rehabilitation programs in hospitals, also outside geriatric wards. The role of nutrition is therefore not clearly defined, but an association between declined functional status and low nutritional status is evident.

Recent findings

An association has been identified between malnutrition and low physical function or lower rehabilitation effect, respectively. In intervention trials with nutritional care (additional energy or protein), a number of benefits for muscle mass, muscle strength, physical function, or the outcomes quality of life and rehospitalization were identified. In this context, the combination of exercise and adequate nutrition seems to be beneficial.


Geriatric patients undergoing a rehabilitation program outside inpatient, ambulatory, or hospitalization care need an adequate supply of energy and nutrients. Malnutrition must be avoided, ideally before starting rehabilitation. Nutritional interventions are most beneficial in combination with exercise training.

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