Uniting trials 3D printed food

Uniting NSW.ACT has teamed up with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) for a groundbreaking pilot study that employs cutting-edge 3D food printing technology to create appetising and manageable meals for older individuals with swallowing difficulties, a condition known as dysphagia.

The project, titled “An Appetite for the Future: 3D Food Printing and People with Swallowing Disability,” is funded by the Australian Research Council and is currently being conducted at two Uniting Residential Aged Care homes: The Marion in Leichhardt and Aldersgate in Lilyfield, both near Sydney city.

The study aims to determine whether 3D-printed food can enhance the visual appeal, food intake, and nutrition of individuals on pureed (texture-modified) diets, addressing a long-standing challenge of making such foods visually appealing to stimulate appetite.

UTS Project Lead, Professor Bronwyn Hemsley, expressed hopes that this partnership with Uniting could revolutionise pureed food presentation and taste. The study seeks to create familiar and visually appealing foods that are also flavorful.

Residents and their families participating in the trial can choose the shape of their 3D-printed food, ranging from stars to chicken drumsticks. Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive, with residents finding the food more visually appealing and engaging.

However, Professor Hemsley acknowledged that the technology needs further refinement to make it more efficient for large-scale use, potentially improving the nutrition and mealtime experience for people with swallowing difficulties.

Swallowing difficulties affect up to 22 per cent of Australians over the age of 50, according to Speech Pathology Australia. Professor Hemsley suggested that this research could lead to meaningful social benefits by enhancing the quality, appeal, and safety of 3D-printed puree meals, empowering individuals with swallowing disabilities to participate more actively in the food creation process.

“People who have swallowing difficulties are often provided with thickened fluids and pureed foods which are often unattractive and unappealing, reducing meal-time related quality of life for people who need these foods to survive,” Professor Hemsley added.

Uniting Hotel Services Specialist, Brendon Gakowski, believes that this technology could be a game-changer in the aged care sector, potentially enhancing the quality of life and nutrition for residents. The engaging process of selecting food shapes and watching them being printed has been described as mesmerizing.

Ultimately, this innovative approach to addressing the nutritional needs of those with swallowing difficulties could have far-reaching implications for the aged care industry, emphasising the importance of enjoyable and nutritious meals for all individuals, regardless of their dietary challenges.


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