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Poor appetite and food intake in older adults

August 01, 2017

Having a poor appetite is a serious health concern for older adults. It can lead to inadequate nutrition, which can shorten your life or reduce your quality of life. Between 11 percent and 15 percent of older adults who live independently are estimated to have poor appetites.

Strategies to improve our appetites as we age include reducing portion size, increasing meal frequency, and using flavor enhancers. Until recently, however, these options have not proven to improve food intake or quality of life for older people. That's part of the reason why a team of researchers designed a study to examine the differences in food intake among older adults with varied appetite levels. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers looked at data from 2,597 people between the ages of 70 and 79. Nearly 22 percent of the people in the study described their appetite as "poor." The researchers interviewed the participants using a 108-item survey to estimate how much food they ate.

The researchers discovered that older adults with poor appetites ate much less protein and dietary fiber. They also ate fewer solid foods, protein-rich foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, people with poor appetite did eat/drink more dairy foods, fats, oils, sweets, and sodas compared to older adults who reported having very good appetites.

"The results of this study show several differences in food consumption among older, independent adults with various appetite levels," wrote the researchers in their study. The team concluded that identifying the specific food preferences of older adults with poor appetites could be helpful for learning how to help improve their appetite and the quality of their diets.
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This summary is from "Poor Appetite and Dietary Intake in Community Dwelling Older Adults". It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are: B. S. van der Meij, PhD; H. A.H. Wijnhoven, PhD; J. S. Lee, PhD; D. K. Houston, PhD; T. Hue, PhD; T. B. Harris, PhD; S. B. Kritchevsky, PhD; A. B. Newman, PhD; and M. Visser, PhD.

About the Health in Aging Foundation

This research summary was developed as a public education tool by the Health in Aging Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through HealthinAging.org. We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults. For more information or to support the Foundation's work, visit http://www.HealthinAgingFoundation.org.

About the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Included in more than 9,000 library collections around the world, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) highlights emerging insights on principles of aging, approaches to older patients, geriatric syndromes, geriatric psychiatry, and geriatric diseases and disorders. First published in 1953, JAGS is now one of the oldest and most impactful publications on gerontology and geriatrics, according to ISI Journal Citation Reports®. Visit wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/JGS for more details.

About the American Geriatrics Society

Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has--for 75 years--worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit AmericanGeriatrics.org.

American Geriatrics Society

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