10 Reasons for Loss of Appetite in Older Adults

10 Reasons for Loss of Appetite in Older Adults

12 Mar 2024

10 Reasons for Loss of Appetite in Older Adults

As you age, your love of food might not be the same as it was years ago. Your loss of appetite could be due to a number of reasons, from age and activity levels to health conditions.

While it's common for older adults to eat less, sudden weight loss or a complete loss of appetite can raise concerns. The good news is that there are solutions. Read on to discover 10 reasons for loss of appetite in the elderly and learn how to eat more.

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What are the potential consequences of loss of appetite?

It's common to not feel hungry if you're sick or exhausted. However, some physical and mental health problems may make you lose your appetite entirely. This can lead to potential consequences such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Loss of bone and muscle mass
  • Fatigue
  • Weakened immune system
  • Irritability
  • Physical and mental decline

10 reasons for loss of appetite in older adults

1. Dehydration

Some older adults become dehydrated when they start a new medication, have a health condition, or simply forget to drink water throughout the day. When you're dehydrated, you might also feel dizzy or nauseated or experience headaches. These symptoms can lessen your appetite.

2. Not having a routine

A lack of a routine might cause you to skip meals since you don't eat at a set time each day. Try creating a schedule you can easily stick to that includes multiple meals and snacks. Once your body gets into the habit of your new routine, you might find yourself feeling hungry around each mealtime.

3. Difficulty chewing or swallowing

Ill-fitting dentures, tooth loss, or other dental problems can make it uncomfortable to eat whole or hard-textured foods. If you experience discomfort while eating, you may be more likely to skip meals or opt for beverages that don't provide the same nutritional value.

4. Loneliness

Some older adults may not enjoy mealtime because they don't have anyone to eat with. If you're feeling a bit lonely, call some friends or family members to join you for meals throughout the week. This way, you'll have some company and conversation to make eating a bit more enjoyable.

5. Change in taste

It's common to experience changes in your sense of taste as you age. This can lead to your favorite foods not hitting your taste buds with all the delight they once did. Sweet and salty flavors might not be as pronounced, whereas sour flavors might feel even more puckering. Some medications and medical conditions can alter the way your food tastes, which could make you feel less hungry too.

6. Sensitivity to smells

Similar to taste, your sense of smell might diminish as you grow older. You may also grow more sensitive to certain smells, making some dishes seem less appetizing.

7. Lack of exercise

Sometimes, you might need to move your body to work up an appetite before mealtime. Older adults who don't partake in enough physical activity may thus lose their appetite.

8. Struggling to prepare meals

As you age, you may find it more challenging to move your body. This might lead you to skip a few meals to save your body the hassle and pain of chopping, cooking, and cleaning.

9. Hormone changes

You might experience a loss of appetite due to your hormones sending fewer hunger signals to your brain. This can lead you to eat fewer meals throughout the day and not meet your daily nutritional goals.

10. Lack of control

Having family members help out during mealtime can boost your mood, but sometimes, it leaves you feeling less in control. When you're unable to choose your meal, you're more likely to not enjoy your food, which can ultimately lead you to not eat.

10 ways to eat more

1. Follow a routine

You may be able to trigger your hunger cues if you follow a set eating schedule. Try to find five to six windows in your day where you can enjoy a small meal. Once your body settles into this new routine, you might find yourself looking forward to each meal.

2. Talk with your doctor

If you find yourself having a tough time eating due to dry mouth or dental issues, you might want to speak with your doctor. They might provide you with medications that can make eating more enjoyable or change your diet plan to better suit you.

3. Try soft foods

Whole, solid foods might not be as easy to consume when you're older. If you find that eating these foods gives you pain or discomfort, opt for soft foods instead. You can make many of these meals on your own using a blender, and they'll hold the same nutritional value as hard-textured foods.

4. Add some flavor to your food

One of the reasons you may be less hungry is due to your changed taste sense making eating less interesting. If this is the case, add some seasonings to your food. Cinnamon, pepper, oregano, and salt are all easily accessible and great options to boost flavor. Seasonings such as turmeric and ginger, as well as rosemary, are also said to aid digestion. This, in turn, can help improve your overall gut health.

5. Strive for daily movement

Exercising causes you to exhaust more energy and burn more calories. Daily movement such as a short walk or strength exercises can increase your need for fuel and thus leave you feeling hungry.

6. Drink water throughout the day

Dehydration can decrease your appetite, make you feel lethargic, and-in extreme cases-lead to health problems. The best way to knock two birds with one stone here is to continually drink water throughout the day. To make hydrating a bit easier, keep a water bottle within reach, or add some citrus to your water to make it more flavorful.

7. Try smaller meals

Sitting down for a big meal when you're not hungry can feel overwhelming. Instead, adding a few small meals throughout your day might be easier. Plus, you can still stick to your nutrition plan while eating smaller portions. Just opt for a protein, carb, and fat source with each meal, such as an apple with yogurt and peanut butter or a turkey sandwich.

8. Add a nutritional shake

Sometimes, sitting down for a meal or a snack doesn't sound appealing. In these cases, you might prefer a high-protein, flavor-filled nutritional shake. Having a nutritional shake between meals will provide you with some calories, protein, fat, and essential vitamins. Plus, with flavors like peanut butter cup or classic vanilla, you'll feel like you're eating a dessert.

9. Eat in a group setting

Having loved ones surround you at mealtime can make you feel less lonely and improve your appetite. Whether you invite your friends and family over or head to a community center, it's often more enjoyable to eat with others.

10. Try meal delivery services

Planning and preparing a meal can be a lot of work, especially if chopping, cooking, and cleaning are uncomfortable. Using a meal delivery service is the easiest way to solve this problem. With a meal delivery service, you can choose from hundreds of meals that look appetizing to you. Plus, they're already completely cooked - just heat them at mealtime for a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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