Seniors: why do we lose our appetite with age and what to do?

A new study sheds light on specific dietary characteristics in seniors living at home, depending on whether or not their level of appetite is reduced. Something to draw attention to the risk of undernutrition.

Reduced appetite is a major problem in cases of undernutrition, as it makes its management more complicated. Techniques such as reducing the size of meals, increasing the frequency of food intake, using flavor enhancers are often used to try to deal with it.

Their effectiveness in improving food intake and quality of life has not, however, been formally established. In seniors who are not malnourished, the level of appetite seems to be an interesting indicator, insofar as it is associated with characteristic eating habits, as reported in this study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary.

Less protein and fiber in case of low appetite

In this study, the researchers examined the eating habits of 2,597 people, aged 70 to 79 and living in the community or at home. Appetite level over the previous month was also determined, and considered “poor” when appetite was reported as moderate, poor, or very poor, compared with good or very good appetite.

After adjusting for various factors including chewing problems, people with poor appetite share several dietary characteristics, with lower intake of protein and dietary fiber, solid foods, protein-rich foods, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

More fats and sweets

The study further shows that a low appetite is associated with increased consumption of dairy products, fats, oils, sweets and sodas. And even that people with a poor appetite report eating large portions less frequently, compared to those with a good appetite.

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A better understanding of the characteristics associated with a low appetite should allow better targeting of interventions aimed at improving the dietary intake, diversity and quality of the elderly.


Van der Meij BS et al. : ,Poor Appetite and Dietary Intake in Community‐Dwelling Older Adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15017


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