Hi, my name is Laura and I have just completed my second year of the new 4-year Integrated Master of Dietetics programme at Newcastle University. Last semester we were lucky enough to have a selection of medical nutrition companies visit us at university to showcase the range of products they can supply for various dietary requirements.
“What I found most beneficial from the event was being able to talk to the experts”
The event really helped me to become more familiar with the types of products available. However, what I found even more beneficial from the event was being able to talk to the experts and gain some practical insights which I will carry with me into my new profession.
Here are my top 5 learnings from the event:
- Experiencing how it may feel to live with dysphagia
A representative from Nestle HealthScience who presented ThickenUp clear, helped us to understand what it would be like to have difficulties swallowing. She used a simple but useful example to represent this: tilt your head up to the sky and try to swallow, this is what it could be like to live with dysphagia. After trying this myself, I imagined what it may be like if every swallow I took throughout the day felt like this. I instantly had a greater appreciation for the challenges individuals face with dysphagia and I’m grateful to have experienced this as I feel I will now have more empathy with future patients. She also gave us great hints and tips whilst using ThickenUp clear, such as not to mix it with pineapple juice due to enzymatic activity affecting its consistency.
- Managing a cow’s milk allergy
Nestle HealthScience presented extensively hydrolysed (SMA Althera) and amino acid-based (SMA Alfamino) formulas for the dietary management of infants with a cow’s milk allergy. Having time to talk to the representative allowed me to have a deeper appreciation for managing this condition. As a future Dietitian, understanding the science behind these products and their appropriate use is fundamental, but what is also vital to remember is the support you can offer to the family. This event was a stark reminder of the real-life challenges when managing this condition, and how the right support during a very upsetting time for new parents is key.
- Making a low-protein diet more acceptable
The company Vitaflo who visited us brought a range of low-protein products to show us these included drinks, powders and pudding alternatives. They also have a chef that creates low-protein recipes and shares these online https://www.facebook.com/chefneill. I was lucky enough to meet Chef Neil and ask him about how he develops his recipes. I asked him if he has any secret ingredients and he told me about the use of psyllium husk, which he finds to be a great gluten replacer in recipes such as bread. He also said one of his favourite ingredients to use is egg replacer. These were great tips I will keep in mind for my future career.
Find low protein recipes at: https://www.vitaflousa.com/recipes
- Understanding the complexity of medical nutrition products
The company Nutricia brought a large range of products to show us. These products included feeds for enteral and parenteral feeding. They also brought along the equipment required for these products. Being able to see this all displayed on a table really hit home to me the burden this puts on individuals and their families when managing therapeutic diets. What I will never forget from Nutricia’s display is when they introduced a ginger-flavoured oral nutritional supplement, explaining that it can be beneficial for individuals having chemotherapy who may be experiencing nausea. This really made me think about how diverse the role of a Dietitian can be and the complexity of offering the most appropriate advice.
- Sampling products
We were lucky enough to sample products Nualtra and Nutricia brought along to show us. These came in many different forms and flavours, some with added protein and sometimes fibre. I tried products such as Fortisip Compact and Altra-juice. I was pleasantly surprised with how palatable these were, however, I have a sweet tooth! I tried to visualise consuming these products on a regular basis and how sickly they may become. I can understand why products such as Fortisip Compact may have better acceptance as a reduced volume is needed and the benefits of having neutral flavour options which could be added to savoury dishes such as soups.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all the companies that visited us at Newcastle University. This was an invaluable experience as a student Dietitian to gain real-life insight into the use of these products.
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