ADULT MALNUTRITION

It is important to make sure nutritional requirements are met at every age.  Getting sufficient nutrition while aging can help promote good health.

Malnutrition is the persistent shortage or malabsorption of one or more important nutrients that are normally acquired through a complete and balanced diet. Proper nutritional intake is very important during aging. Getting proper nutrition is a critical need for the elderly.

There are many factors that cause people to become malnourished while aging. For example, many elderly people experience certain medical factors that cause a person to simply eat less, such as reduced appetite, dental or oral problems, reduced smell and taste, and other medical conditions. Lifestyle can play a role as well, especially in those who live alone and eat less as a result, or in those for whom the cost of food is hard to manage. The elderly also experience more chronic and acute diseases, many of which require hospitalization, which can further interfere with getting proper nutrition.

Malnutrition is not uncommon. In one study of over 4,500 elderly people from multiple countries, nearly half of those surveyed were at risk for malnutrition, and almost a quarter were diagnosed as being malnourished.1 A 2013 study in Canada revealed 45% of individuals admitted to hospital were moderately or severely malnourished2.The risks of malnutrition are serious and may include increased chance of infection, slower recovery from illness or injury, and overall increased mortality.

Therefore, it is important for people to make an effort to get sufficient nutrition as they age. Exercise and an active social life are lifestyle behaviours that can help increase appetite as well. But above all, having readily available, nutritious foods and making subtle dietary changes to improve food intake are important ways to avoid malnutrition while aging3.

  1. Kaiser MJ, Bauer JM, Rämsch C, Uter W, Guigoz Y, Cederholm T et al. Frequency of malnutrition in older adults: a multinational perspective using the mini nutritional assessment. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Sep;58(9):1734-8.
  2. Allard JP et al. Malnutrition at Hospital Admission—Contributors andEffect on Length of Stay: A Prospective Cohort Study From the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force.JPEN Published online before print January 26, 2015, doi: 10.1177/0148607114567902
  3. Hickson M. Malnutrition and ageing. Postgrad Med J. Jan 2006; 82(963): 2–8.
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Sufficient nutrition from foods that are high in protein and low in fat can help maintain lean muscle mass – a key to staying healthy


Source: Hickson M. Malnutrition and ageing. Postgrad Med J. Jan 2006; 82(963): 2–8

<h2>Recognize common causes of malnutrition</h2>

RECOGNIZE COMMON CAUSES OF MALNUTRITION

The following factors are often implicated when people eat less: health and dental problems, medications that interfere with appetite or cause nausea, living alone (social isolation), mental health problems such as depression and excessive alcohol consumption.

<h2>Signs and symptoms of malnutrition</h2>

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF MALNUTRITION

One of the most common symptoms of malnutrition is unintended weight loss. If someone is replacing nourishing foods with less healthy options, loss of muscle might be disguised by increase in body fat, even if overall body weight may not change. Therefore, it is important to be aware of other signs of malnutrition, such as changes in eating habits, fatigue and loss of strength, and slower-than-expected recovery from injury and illness.

<h2>Ways to improve nutritional intake</h2>

WAYS TO IMPROVE NUTRITIONAL INTAKE

Readily available, easily accessible, and nutrient-rich foods can help improve the intake of important nutrients. In the case of a reduced appetite that may be common in many people as they age, the availability of nutritious snacks is a helpful way to improve nutritional intake between meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheese or oral nutritional supplements can all be added to meals or eaten as snacks to help reduce the risk of malnutrition.