Our first participant completes the NUTRIMAL Project!

Our first participant has officially completed the NUTRIMAL Project! The lovely Teresa (83 y) first heard about the NUTRIMAL Project at the 50 plus expo in the RDS in 2016 and officially started the study in June 2017. We could not have asked for a more fantastic participant! Teresa always arrived to her visits in UCD with a smile on her face and stuck to her supplements rigorously throughout the 6 months. Despite the fact that it is us who should be thanking Teresa for generously giving her time and commitment to the project, Teresa arrived to her final study visit with a lovely card and chocolates for the NUTRIMAL team!


The NUTRIMAL team would like to say a huge thank you to Teresa and to all of the participants in the Nutrimal Project!

The NUTRIMAL project at the 50 plus expo

The NUTRIMAL project had a stand at the 50 plus expo which took place in the RDS in Dublin Oct 20th-22nd 2017. The 50 Plus Expo is the only national consumer event dedicated to older people in Ireland and hosts a number of information and education stands on everything from the winter flu vaccine to retirement planning to yoga. The event attracts thousands of people aged 50 and over every year making it an ideal place for us to recruit participants for the NUTRIMAL project.


At our stand we offered free strength testing and told people about our study. Our stand got lots of interest with queues even forming for the strength testing and over 90 people signed up to attend a screening visit for the NUTRIMAL project. I was lucky to have lots of help at the stand from the great students working on the project!


My sister’s boyfriend who is doing a masters in interactive design helped me design the posters for our stand – compared to my first draft they looked far more professional after he edited them!


We also attended the event in 2016 and it was there that we recruited a number of participants who are currently in the NUTRIMAL project! It was great to bump into them again this year at the expo!

In the afternoon I gave a talk on “Healthy Eating for Positive Aging”. Initially when I turned up to give my talk this was my audience…


Fortunately however it turned out I had just been told the wrong time and luckily an audience showed up an hour later 🙂

Some key points from my talk on Healthy Eating in the over 65s were:

  • A good diet and physical activity are powerful strategies to help you keep your body healthy as you age


  • The new fruit and veg recommendation is 5 – 7 portions per day

1 portion = 1 medium fruit like an apple or banana, 2 small fruits like kiwis or mandarins, 1 cup of cooked veg, 1 bowl of homemade soup or salad


  • Fibre helps to prevent constipation and reduce the risk of colon cancer. Choose whole grains  (i.e. brown bread, wholegrain cereals, brown rice, brown pasta, quinoa, wholegrain cous cous) rather than white versions and keep the skins on potatoes and fruit to get more fibre in your diet. When increasing your fibre make sure to also drink plenty of fluid (aim for 8 glasses of fluid per day i.e. water, tea, coffee etc.) or constipation may get worse.


  • We lose muscle mass and strength we age. Protein (found in foods like eggs, milk, yogurt, fish, meat, beans, tofu and nuts) is critical for your muscle. Older adults need more protein than younger ones, try to have it at every meal of the day. Older adults typically don’t eat enough protein at breakfast in particular!


  • Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your body. If it was a medication every doctor would prescribe it – keep active!Slide3

Why healthy aging research is now more important than ever

The Irish population is aging. This is also the case in virtually every other country in the world. At the moment in Ireland there are 540,000 people aged 65+ (accounting for 12% of the Irish population). By 2041 this number will increase to 1.4 million (22% of the Irish population[1].


Life expectancy has also increased dramatically over the past 100 years [2]. For example, the average female born in Ireland today can expect to give 29 years longer than the average female born in 1911!

slide2This increase in life expectancy is a great achievement, but as we all know getting older is associated with increased risk of physical disability and other health problems. Therefore, it is now more important than ever that we find ways to preserve health and quality of life during these gained years of life expectancy.

Therefore the aim of healthy aging studies, like the NUTRIMAL project, is to find ways to help keep older adults well, independent and happy as they get older.

Recruitment begins on Newstalk with Pat Kenny!

Recruitment for the NUTRIMAL project officially kicked off in August 2016 on the Pat Kenny radio show!

Pat Kenny

Prof Helen Roche went live on Ask the Expert on Newstalk and discussed nutrition, supplements and exercise with Pat. Helen answered questions texted in by listeners which included a wide range of topics such protein supplements, which oil to use in cooking and whether or not to chocolate milk is a healthy option.

Helen also told Pat about the NUTRIMAL project and invited interested listeners to contact us to find out more about participating in the research study.

Here’s a link to the show if you’d like to have a listen:


After the show we got lots of calls of from members of the public who were interested in participating, some of whom are now NUTRIMAL participants!


I’m Caoileann Murphy, the postdoctoral researcher running the NUTRIMAL project. The NUTRIMAL project is co-ordinated by Prof. Helen Roche at UCD and Dr Brendan Egan in DCU. Also collaborating on the project are Professor Giuseppe De Vito and Dr Clare Corish from UCD, Dr Sinead McCarthy from Teagasc, Glanbia and Smartfish.


Prof. Helen Roche is a Dietitian head of the the Nutrigenomics Research Group in UCD.  Nutrigenomics is the study of the interaction between our genes, what we eat and our health. For example how does what we eat affect which of our genes are ‘switched on’? And how do our genes affect our ability to get health benefits from a certain diet?


Dr Brendan Egan is a Sports Scientist/Nutritionist and is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology in Dublin City University. His research group is particularly interested in muscle and investigates how nutrition and exercise work together to optimise performance in athletes and older adults. Dr Egan also consults as a performance nutritionist to elite team sport athletes.



Professor Giuseppe De Vito is the Head of the School Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science at UCD. Professor De Vito’s research mainly focuses on muscle function in older and younger adults. Professor De Vito is a trained Medical Doctor and takes the muscle samples from the NUTRIMAL project participants who chose to take part in this optional, additional measurement.


Dr Giuseppe De Vito

Dr Clare Corish is a Dietitian and Associate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics in UCD. Dr Corish recently set up the first ever MSc programme in Nutrition and Dietetics in the Republic of Ireland in UCD. Dr Corish is also very involved in research, in particular in relation to malnutrition in older adults.

Clare Corish

Dr Clare Corish

Dr Sinead McCarthy is a Research Officer at Teagasc. Dr. McCarthy has a background in Public Health Nutrition and her research focuses on consumer behaviour in relation to food and health.

Dr Sinead McCarthy

And of course you know me from the homepage! I trained as a Dietitian in Dublin and did my PhD in Canada investigating how we can use nutrition and exercise to slow the loss of muscle and strength in older adults. I started my job as a postdoctoral researcher in UCD in 2016 working on the NUTRIMAL project and I am really enjoying it so far!


Where does the funding for the NUTRIMAL project come from?

NUTRIMAL is funded by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM) under the Food Institutional Research Measure. In 2014, Professor Helen Roche and Dr. Brendan Egan, in collaboration with a number of other researchers, applied for a highly competitive grant offered by DAFM. The (50 page!) NUTRIMAL project grant proposal was scrutinized by an Expert Evaluation Panel made up of experts in research, the agri-food industry and the public service and was selected to receive the funding.

After I joined the team we successfully applied for additional funding to add some extra measurements to the project. This involved a few more applications and an interview! The NUTRIMAL project has received funding from European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 666010 and the European Society of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) under the 2017 ESPEN Fellowship programme.

The ingredients for the NUTRIMAL project drinks have been kindly donated by Smartfish and Glanbia Nutritionals. Here is in UCD we spotted that both of these companies were producing ingredients with the potential to improve muscle health in older adults and brought them together to produce a custom-made product for the NUTRIMAL project that is not commercially available.


What are the NUTRIMAL nutritional supplements?

The supplements are fruit flavoured drinks approximately the size of a small apple juice carton (200 ml).

They are produced by a Norwegian company called Smartfish and incorporate a food ingredient produced by the Irish company Glanbia.Nutritionals. I think they taste great!

Me tasting NUTRIMAL drinks


The drinks are not commercially available and were custom-made for the NUTRIMAL project. Each participant will be randomly allocated to receive one of the following supplements for the 6 month period:

Supplement 1

Supplement 1 contains milk protein (whey).  Evidence from previous research studies suggests that whey protein from milk is especially effective for increasing the rate of muscle building in older adults. In addition, this supplement has added leucine. Leucine is one of building blocks that makes up protein in foods and is known to have a special role as a ‘trigger’ for muscle building.

There is also some carbohydrate (from fruit sugars) and fat (from sunflower oil) in this supplement.

There are 200 calories per drink.


Supplement 2

Supplement 2 contains milk protein with added leucine (just like supplement 1) but it also contains omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil. A previous study found that older adults supplemented with fish oil for 6 months had an increase in muscle mass and strength. However, no studies have examined if a combination of whey protein, added leucine and fish oil can lead to an even greater improvement in muscle mass and strength than whey protein and added leucine alone…and that is what we want to find out in the NUTRIMAL study.

There is also some carbohydrate (from fruit sugars) in this supplement.

There are 200 calories per drink.


Supplement 3

Supplement 3 placebo (contains no milk protein or fish oil). This supplement contains fat (from sunflower oil) and carbohydrate from fruit sugars as well as added sugars (~ 3 tsp added sugar per drink).

There are 200 calories per drink.