Nutritional Health and the Impact of Unseen Malnutrition in our Health System: with Professor Heather Keller

Published on February 29, 2024

In episode 46 of The HQ podcast, we’re exploring a topic at the heart of our health and well-being: Nutrition. With March marking National Nutrition Month, we’re taking a closer look at the complexities surrounding nutrition and its profound impact on our health, especially as we age.

Joining us once again is Professor Heather Keller, the Schlegel Research Chair in Nutrition & Aging at the University of Waterloo. An internationally recognized expert in geriatric nutrition, Professor Keller’s research spans nutrition risk, malnutrition identification and treatment, and enhancing the mealtime experience across care sectors. Her work aims to improve nutrition care processes and implement best practices, particularly among diverse groups in the community, including those living with dementia.

In this episode, we explore the essentials of nutrition and malnutrition, discussing not only the definitions but also the misconceptions surrounding these terms. The critical focus of our conversation is on the significant role nutritional health plays as we age – and what happens to seniors when it is assumed or goes unexamined by our healthcare system. Indeed, what is the impact of not diagnosing malnutrition in someone who is admitted for more than even 3 days?

Key discussion points include:

– What exactly are nutrition and malnutrition, and how do they differ?
– The impact of hospital stays on nutrition and how they can challenge patients, particularly the elderly.
– The unique nutritional challenges faced by older adults with cognitive impairments.
– The prevalence of malnutrition among older adults and its importance.
– Strategies to support the nutrition of older adults post-hospitalization to promote recovery and prevent rehospitalization.

Tune in as we unpack the vital role of nutrition in our health and how we, alongside healthcare professionals, can better support the nutritional needs of older adults, ensuring a healthier, more nourishing future.

About Heather Keller

Heather is an internationally recognized expert in geriatric nutrition, assessment, and treatment. Research areas focus on nutrition risk and malnutrition identification and treatment across care sectors; improving nutrition care processes and implementing screening and other best practices; supporting food intake of diverse groups living in the community, including those living with dementia; and improving hospital and residential food and promoting food intake and the mealtime experience in these settings. Professor Keller has led several national research and knowledge translation projects, including the landmark Nutrition Care in Canadian Hospitals, More-2-Eat and Making the Most of Mealtimes in Long Term Care studies. Professor Keller has published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles and translates much of this evidence into practice with tools and resources. As a founding member and past chair/co-chair (2009-2018) of the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force, she is involved in translating research into practice and advocating for improvements in nutrition care. She is currently the co-chair of the primary care working group for CMTF and involved in several national and international expert groups advancing the prevention, detection and treatment of malnutrition. 


Helpful Links

Heather Keller | LinkedIn: Click Here 

Heather Keller | Twitter: @HeatherHKeller | @nutriagelab 

Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Again (RIA) | LinkedIn: Click Here 

Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Again (RIA) | Twitter: Click Here 

Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Again (RIA) | Facebook: Click Here 


Additional Resources: 

CHOICE+ | Website: Click Here 

Food Service & Nutrition Management in Healthcare | CHA Learning Program | Website: Click Here 

Long-Term Care Executive Leadership | CHA Learning Program | Website: Click Here 

People-Centred Care | CHA Learning Program | Website: Click Here 


About this Episode