Assessment and management of nutrition in older people and its importance to health

Clin Interv Aging. 2010 Aug 9;5:207-16. doi: 10.2147/cia.s9664.


Nutrition is an important element of health in the older population and affects the aging process. The prevalence of malnutrition is increasing in this population and is associated with a decline in: functional status, impaired muscle function, decreased bone mass, immune dysfunction, anemia, reduced cognitive function, poor wound healing, delayed recovery from surgery, higher hospital readmission rates, and mortality. Older people often have reduced appetite and energy expenditure, which, coupled with a decline in biological and physiological functions such as reduced lean body mass, changes in cytokine and hormonal level, and changes in fluid electrolyte regulation, delay gastric emptying and diminish senses of smell and taste. In addition pathologic changes of aging such as chronic diseases and psychological illness all play a role in the complex etiology of malnutrition in older people. Nutritional assessment is important to identify and treat patients at risk, the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool being commonly used in clinical practice. Management requires a holistic approach, and underlying causes such as chronic illness, depression, medication and social isolation must be treated. Patients with physical or cognitive impairment require special care and attention. Oral supplements or enteral feeding should be considered in patients at high risk or in patients unable to meet daily requirements.

Keywords: anorexia of aging; malnutrition; nutritional assessment; older people; sarcopinia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Elder Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Geriatrics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis*
  • Malnutrition / physiopathology
  • Malnutrition / therapy*
  • Nutrition Assessment