Poor Oral Health as a Determinant of Malnutrition and Sarcopenia

Nutrients. 2019 Nov 29;11(12):2898. doi: 10.3390/nu11122898.


Aging is accompanied by profound changes in many physiological functions, leading to a decreased ability to cope with stressors. Many changes are subtle, but can negatively affect nutrient intake, leading to overt malnutrition. Poor oral health may affect food selection and nutrient intake, leading to malnutrition and, consequently, to frailty and sarcopenia. On the other hand, it has been highlighted that sarcopenia is a whole-body process also affecting muscles dedicated to chewing and swallowing. Hence, muscle decline of these muscle groups may also have a negative impact on nutrient intake, increasing the risk for malnutrition. The interplay between oral diseases and malnutrition with frailty and sarcopenia may be explained through biological and environmental factors that are linked to the common burden of inflammation and oxidative stress. The presence of oral problems, alone or in combination with sarcopenia, may thus represent the biological substratum of the disabling cascade experienced by many frail individuals. A multimodal and multidisciplinary approach, including personalized dietary counselling and oral health care, may thus be helpful to better manage the complexity of older people. Furthermore, preventive strategies applied throughout the lifetime could help to preserve both oral and muscle function later in life. Here, we provide an overview on the relevance of poor oral health as a determinant of malnutrition and sarcopenia.

Keywords: life course approach; malnutrition; nutrition; older people; oral health; sarcopenia; swallowing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / complications*
  • Oral Health*
  • Sarcopenia / complications*