Hospital meals may be loaded with fat, cholesterol and salt, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A survey of 57 teaching hospitals found only one in 14 routinely offers meals to patients that meet the latest guidelines for promoting health and reducing heart disease. The study's authors, in a letter to the Journal, said it was "discouraging" that hospitals offering state-of-the-art treatments did not necessarily offer state-of-the-art diets.Led by Dr. Adam Singer of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the team based its work on nutrition standards published in 1989 by the National Research Council's Committee on Diet and Health. Using those standards to assess three daily menus from each of the 57 hospitals they found that:
- 39 percent had too much fat, and 47 percent had too much saturated fat. According to the standard, only 30 percent of the calories in the diet are supposed to come from fat; the limit for saturated fat is 10 percent.
- 81 percent had more than the recommended 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.
- 54 percent had too much salt. Six milligrams is the recommended daily limit.
Hospitals did a better job of giving fruits, vegetables and grains to patients, the team concluded. Only 12 percent of the hospitals failed to offer enough fruits and vegetables, and only 7 percent failed to provide enough breads and cereals.