British prison inmates are better fed than hospital patients, researchers said on Monday.
The team from Bournemouth University in southern England found that although prisons spend less per person on food, inmates are more likely to get a nourishing meal than their fellow citizens who are not behind bars.
Professor John Edwards said about 40 percent of patients going into hospital were already malnourished -- but the situation rarely improved while there.
"If you are in prison then the diet you get is extremely good in terms of nutritional content. The food that is provided is actually better than most civilians have," he said.
"There's a focus on carbohydrates, then there's the way they prepare the food, it's very healthy."
By contrast, Edwards said hospital patients do not eat enough, blaming a lack of appetite caused by illness but also the rigid eating timetables which mean some patients miss out on meals because they are receiving treatment.
Another concern is that patients are not helped at meal times and no one checks whether they are eating what they are given.
"If you are using food as a means of treatment then it's not working," he said, saying hospitals must not become "complacent" about the issue.
A spokesman for the Department of Health insisted most patients were satisfied with the food they received in hospital and said action was being taken to ensure non-urgent treatments did not get in the way of mealtimes.