If you are an older adult, you are well aware that your appetite isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps you’ve traded a plate of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and toast for a small bowl of oatmeal. Tackling the grandiose meals of your youth seems like an impossible feat in your older age. Why exactly is this and what happened to your body?
Older adults usually cut back on portions and reach for foods that are easier to digest. Eating smaller portions isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the meals provide ample nutrition. A problem can arise if loss of appetite stems from an underlying health issue. If you don’t address this issue, you may experience weight loss, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis, anemia, trouble balancing, or other illnesses.
Dietitians state that, while proper nutrition is vital for everyone, it is especially important for older adults. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can help older adults retain energy and reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. If you or someone you know has recently lost an interest in food more so than before, the following reasons may provide more explanation.
You can have problems with your teeth and gums from childhood into old age. The problem is that dental issues become more common as you get older. If you have problems with your teeth and gums, eating is less enjoyable, so you may eat less. Tooth loss, poor-fitting dentures, and other problems make it harder to chew. Untreated cavities or gum disease may cause pain while chewing.
Colds Or Infections
The immune system naturally declines with age, which makes older adults more susceptible to colds and infections. If you are sick, you may only have an appetite for some toast or a few bites of soup. Other food options that have more sustenance may not appeal to you. If the illness or infection causes dehydration, you are less likely to eat food, according to health experts.
Age-Related Physical Changes
As covered so far, your appetite can shrink as you get older. One cause that health experts attribute this to is your sense of taste and smell diminish with age, making food less appealing. If you are less active than you used to be, you may not require as much energy to fuel the body as you did as a young person, according to a 2020 review. The less fuel you need, the less likely you are to eat large amounts of food.
Changing Social Circumstances
What exactly do social circumstances have to do with your appetite, you ask? Well, your living situation may change and fewer people may live in your household. That means that you don’t cook for large groups of family any longer because you may live alone and eat by yourself. The unfortunate reality is that older people are twice as likely to have poor appetite when living alone. As your social circumstances change and increase loneliness, you may lose your appetite even more. One of the most common symptoms of depression is loss of appetite, so make sure to care for your mental health if this factors into your appetite.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are common age-related cognitive disorders. In addition to loss of memory and forgetfulness, cognitive decline increases the risk for depression which often leads to weight loss due to lack of interest in food. Studies note that eating regular meals also proves to be challenging for people with Alzheimer’s disease. This may stem from overstimulation or too many food choices. They may also have trouble focusing on the food if there are other distractions present. Lastly, a person with Alzheimer’s may forget to eat or stop eating if the condition is more severe.
Medications And Chronic Diseases
Chronic health issues can accompany old age if you do not take care of the body. As an older person, the risk of chronic pain, heart failure, kidney failure, liver disease, cancer, and more increases. All of those can decrease your appetite, and some conditions (such as arthritis) may affect your ability to hold utensils, which makes it harder to eat. Medications that doctors prescribe for some of these conditions also affect appetite. Additionally, medications can alter your taste preferences, cause dry mouth, or make you less hungry, according to health experts.