The impact of home-delivered meal services on the nutritional intake of community living older adults: a systematic literature review

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2020 Feb;33(1):38-47. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12690. Epub 2019 Jul 2.


Background: There is a global increase in populations aged over 65 years. Physiological changes that occur during ageing may increase the nutritional risk for older adults. To avoid malnutrition and address some of the barriers to obtain an adequate food supply, home-delivered meals services provide meals in the home or in congregate settings for older adults who require nutritional support.

Methods: This systematic literature review explored whether nutritional intake is improved in community-living older adults when receiving meal services compared to when meal services are not received. Four electronic databases were searched up to 31 January 2019. In total, 13 original studies were included in this analysis with the components: intervention of home-delivered meal or congregate meal services to older adults; comparison with groups not receiving meal services or days not receiving the meal service; and nutritional intake as an outcome measured by food history, dietary recall and/or food frequency questionnaire.

Results: The results supported a beneficial effect of home-delivered meals on dietary intake of energy, protein and/or certain micronutrients in older adults.

Conclusions: The increased total energy intake is a positive influence on malnutrition risk in frail older adults and the increased protein intake supports good health, promotes recovery from illness and assists in maintaining functionality in older adults. Additionally, there was a particular increase in calcium intake, which is relevant in ageing, especially for bone health.

Keywords: Meals-On-Wheels; community living; congregate meal; home-delivered meal; nutritional intake; older adults.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Food Services*
  • Food Supply / methods*
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Healthy Aging
  • Humans
  • Independent Living / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control*
  • Meals