News article

Poor appetite in the elderly a better indicator of mortality risk

Posted:  Thursday, September 18, 2014

A recent study found that appetite of the elderly population may help predict the risk of mortality in them. Elderly people with a fair to poor appetite had a higher risk of dying prematurely than those with a good appetite.

Published in the latest issue of the journal Appetite, the study found that poor appetite was associated with lesser variations in the type of diet consumed. This consequently led to poor intake of energy, protein, vitamins and other nutrients among the elderly. They also found that poor appetite does not directly impact health, but the resulting poor diet and nutritional deficiencies cause harm.

The researchers came to this conclusion after studying data collected from 1800 independently living Taiwanese people aged over 65 years.

Several factors contribute to the diminished urge to eat in the elderly resulting in a state called ‘anorexia of aging’. These factors include the inability to chew, medication side effects, loneliness or depression, family issues and environmental factors.

The study thus brings to light the fact that poor appetite may be a valuable early indicator of underlying nutritional deficiencies or diseases in the elderly. This in turn could help evaluate the risk of premature mortality in this population.

The researchers summarized the study findings stating, "knowledge of old people's appetite has considerable potential to be useful in both clinical and community settings, and should be part of an integrated approach to diet that underpins a healthy old age".