Much emphasis is placed on the importance of good diet, usually in relation to concern about the health risks of obesity. However it has been generally agreed that the risk of undernutrition rather than overnutrition is the main cause for concern in elderly people, particularly those who are hospitalised or institutionalised. Malnutrition has been shown to have important effects on recovery in a broad range of patients and conditions. It has been associated strongly with impaired immune response, impaired muscle and respiratory function, delayed wound healing, overall increased complications, longer rehabilitation, greater length of hospital stay and increased mortality. Oral protein and energy supplements are potentially safer and easier to administer than nasogastric enteral feeds and are therefore particularly suited to elderly people and are also widely used. However, there may be problems with the willingness and ability of older people to consume oral supplements, and supplements may not be used effectively. Even if supplements are prescribed, they may not always be given, or are given but not consumed. In addition to taste, the composition and timing of administration in relation to meals may be important. Efforts also need to be made to provide normal meals and snacks which meet the needs of elderly people and to provide assistance with feeding if required.