Swallowing difficulties as a result of age could arise, such as dry mouth, reduced muscular strength, and dental loss. Fibrous, hard or dry food may be unsuitable due to difficulties such as bolus formation for swallowing. Sticky and adhesive foods also increase risk for choking.
Adding nutrient-rich food such as milk, cream and butter that also act as moisteners should be the focus for the food industry. Another key focus would be to making foods with soft, easily broken fibres.
Texture properties ideally suited for the elderly would therefore be soft, moist and easily chewed. The ideal swallow-safe bolus would be soft, homogeneously textured, and slippery enough to allow quick entry into the pharynx.
However, safety is not the only priority, as nutritional value and food appeal will play an important role too.
“Careful, individualised attention to diet recommendations will result in a diet that is appealing and also provide a variety of textures that are swallow-safe and nutrient dense,” said researcher Dr Julie Cichero.
Recent innovations could help to create visually appealing smooth foods that can be eaten by seniors with chewing difficulties. Biozoon, a German food technologies developer, recently advanced a smooth food concept that recreates food shapes, but can be swallowed without chewing. The smooth foods are 3D printed using texturisers such as algae-derived carrageenan, and aims to replicate the original look and taste while remaining swallow-safe.