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A National Food Industry Strategy Food Innovations Grant was awarded in June 2003 and completed in November 2005 for the development of a food thickener to improve moisture uptake in dysphagia patients.

Dysphagia occurs when there is a problem with any part of the swallowing process. It is generally caused by conditions which weaken or damage the muscles and nerves used to swallow, and is common with residents of aged care facilities or people who suffer from a range of nervous system or muscular conditions (eg. Parkinson’s Disease, stroke).

We have supplied a food thickener for this market since 1993 called Quikthik which is a mixture of xanthan gum, maltodextrin and dextrose. It has the advantage of dispersing readily into hot or cold drinks and offers carers and nursing staff a product that is easy to use, producing thickened drinks without the need for a high speed stirrer. For patients it also offers the advantage of a neutral taste that allows reasonable flavour retention from the original drink.


Consuming thickened fluids is not a particularly pleasant experience and as a consequence patient compliance is low, resulting in dehydration. We looked at this problem by formulating a premix with a high level of soluble fibre, knowing that soluble fibre escapes digestion in the small intestine and passes through to the colon. We assumed that water bound with the fibre would be available for release in the colon, where rapid moisture uptake occurs.

Trials were conducted with rats and later with humans, comparing the moisture uptake of our prototype with Quikthik and other commercial thickeners. Unfortunately the trials were unsuccessful and showed that there was no significant difference between any of the thickeners. The knowledge we acquired throughout this research will benefit us enormously in our continued servicing and research of the dysphagic market.

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