Body Weight, Anorexia, and Undernutrition in Older People

Stijn Soenen, Ian M. Chapman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

142 Citations (Scopus)


Ideal body weight for maximum life expectancy increases with advancing age. Older people, however, tend to weigh less than younger adults, and old age is also associated with a tendency to lose weight. Weight loss in older people is associated with adverse outcomes, particularly if unintentional, and initial body weight is low. When older people lose weight, more of the tissue lost is lean tissue (mainly skeletal muscle) than in younger people. When excessive, the loss of lean muscle tissue results in sarcopenia, which is associated with poor health outcomes. Unintentional weight loss in older people may be a result of protein-energy malnutrition, cachexia, the physiological anorexia of aging, or a combination of these. The physiological anorexia of aging is a decrease in appetite and energy intake that occurs even in healthy people and is possibly caused by changes in the digestive tract, gastrointestinal hormone concentrations and activity, neurotransmitters, and cytokines. A greater understanding of this decrease in appetite and energy intake during aging, and the responsible mechanisms, may aid the search for ways to treat undernutrition and weight loss in older people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-648
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


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