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Loss of Appetite


Loss of appetite (LOA) or Anorexia is defined as loss of the desire to eat and is associated with a reduced food intake. LOA can be due to a wide range of disease processes. However, many clinicians do not assess the nutritional status of the elderly routinely or treat the underlying causes of LOA appropriately. This is detrimental for the elderly as the development of malnutrition and muscle wasting can affect their quality of life.


Loss of appetite is an important clinical problem in the elderly, the causes are multifactorial including:

  1. Medical causes e.g. cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic heart failure, chronic renal failure, chronic liver failure, rheumatoid arthritis and AIDS
  2. Psychological causes e.g. depression, dementia, anxiety
  3. Social causes e.g. poverty, isolation
  4. Dental problem e.g. poor dentition and ill-fitting dentures
  5. Pharmacological factors e.g. side effects of treatment
  6. Surgical causes e.g. dysphagia, intestinal obstruction
  7. Other causes e.g. nausea, vomiting, persistent pain and taste alterations


In the elderly, LOA can lead to malnutrition which is associated with

  • impaired muscle function
  • decreased bone mass
  • immune dysfunction
  • anemia
  • reduced cognitive function
  • poor wound healing
  • impaired quality of life
  • increased morbidity and mortality.

Treatment and Prevention

Loss of appetite and its’ associated nutritional deficits are important clinical features which should be routinely assessed in all elderly patients who are at risk. Effective therapeutic and preventive measures should be implemented at an early stage and a multidisciplinary team should be used to attenuate disease progression and improve patients’ overall function and quality of life.

How to improve Appetite In Elderly?

Care provider have to play an important role to overcome these issues. They should identify the exact cause. Here there are a fews such tips to improve appetite in elderly :

  • Serve foods that they like to eat, if possible to prepare a list of their favorite food.These will make them happy to get their choice of food.

  • Keep the size of their meals small to avoid the feeling that they cannot finish their meals.

  • Try out different recipies for them.

  • Can add some herbs,spices and dressing to increase their interest toword the food.

  • Try to adjust the preparation of food to overcome their problem, eg if they have problem with chewing, try to cut the food in small sizes.

  • Advise them to drink sufficient amount of water.

  • Give them moral support by giving them lots of love, care and support. Do not neglect their need and demand.

Semakan Akhir : 28 August 2020
Writer/Reviewer : Dr. Ho Bee Kiau