Predicting which older people are more likely to suffer from food-related illnesses can help to prevent weight loss and depression, according to researchers.
Following concerns that many older people are not receiving the correct amounts of basic nutritional foods, researchers in the US have urged care providers to take the lead and ask the right questions.
As care workers are often unaware of any problems until significant weight loss or mood swings are obvious, it can help to take a preventative approach, reports the Times Herald Record.
The researchers from St Louis University suggest that just four basic questions can determine those at a high risk.
Asking people to rate their appetite, how quickly they feel full, how many meals they eat on an average day and how food tastes to them can help to build a profile.
Using volunteers to test the questionnaire approach, they found that the profile was right around 90 per cent of the time, predicting which people would lose ten per cent of their body weight.
The researchers added that malnutrition can have "devastating consequences on quality of life, morbidity and mortality" in elderly people, adding to recent calls for consistent standards in care homes across the UK.