Yes, it’s a fact. As we age, our appetite decreases. Whether this is a normal part of the aging process or due to other concerns is different for each person. So why does this occur and when should we become concerned either for ourselves or loved ones?
As we age naturally, our metabolism slows as does our energy levels and physical activities thus requiring less calorie intake per day. However, compounded with that may be any number of triggers which can further alter our dietary habits including illness, oral health, medications, genetics, living alone, mobility issues, income, mental health, hormonal changes, and other lifestyle changes.
While some decrease in appetite is normal, a sudden or drastic change in appetite loss can be an indicator of illness and should be discussed with a health care provider as soon as it is noticed. Any decrease in food intake, or nutrients can lead to new challenges and physical manifestations including bone density loss, weaker immune system, muscle weakness, more extended periods to heal wounds, and a loss of quality of life, not to mention opening the gateway to many more serious illnesses.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4589891/ research shows that “an estimated one-third of people over 65 years old have reduced saliva production, causing difficulties in eating that may impair appetite. Decreased saliva production is not a part of normal aging and is most often caused by medication side effects”. It goes on to say that “Changes in the levels and responsiveness to some of the hormones involved in appetite control have been found in older people.” “Taste, smell and vision are all involved with the enjoyment of food, and impairments of these senses that occur with aging can cause reduced appetite. The smell of food stimulates appetite, and taste promotes the enjoyment of food and further stimulates appetite during eating. Many older people have an impaired sense of smell and taste which will cause them to have a worse appetite.”
One thing is certain. Although our intake may decrease, the need for nutrient-rich foods increases and should be the primary consideration in meal planning, even if smaller portions are being consumed. So, what should we eat? The WebMD shares some basic ideas www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/over-50-nutrition-17/anti-aging-diet to get us started on a healthier golden age:
“Keys to a Healthy Diet
You probably know the basics of a healthy diet — lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, whole grains, some low-fat dairy and healthy fats, and less salt. Some foods are especially helpful for older adults who want to eat healthier.
Water. Not a food, you say? Think of it as one. As you get older, you may not drink enough water because you don’t feel as thirsty as you used to. “Water is so underappreciated. Our bodies are mostly water. If you’re chronically dehydrated, just think of what your cells look like,” says Robin Foroutan, a New York nutritionist. “You can’t think as clearly, you get fatigued more easily, you don’t tolerate heat as well. People who complain of things like fatigue and mild headaches and constipation, most often they’re just dehydrated,” Foroutan says.
Blueberries. “Always delicious,” says Angel Planells, a nutritionist in Seattle, “and packed with various antioxidants.” Antioxidants — things like vitamin C and vitamin E — keep your cells healthy.“You can’t go wrong with any of the berries, usually,” Planells says, “but blueberries really come packed with nutrients that are beneficial for the body.”
Fiber. Fiber from foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes plays a key role in your digestive system. It can help prevent or ease constipation as well as lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation. That can lead to a healthier heart. Fiber also can help control blood sugar levels and lower your chances of diabetes.
Fatty fish. Heart-healthy all-stars like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They can be part of a healthy diet. Aim for at least two servings a week.
Olive oil. You can use this as a substitute for butter. It’s healthier than some other oils.
Yogurt. Bone loss gets worse as you get older. Calcium helps keep it at bay, and yogurt is a good source of that. Get yogurt fortified with vitamin D, which helps you take in and use that key mineral. Yogurt also helps you digest your food, and it has protein, too. And it pairs really well with fruit.
Tomatoes. These and other foods high in lycopene, a natural chemical, can help protect you against prostate cancer and may help prevent lung cancer, too. Cooked or processed tomatoes (in juice, paste, and sauce) may be better at that than raw ones. Researchers believe that heating or mashing tomatoes releases more lycopene.
Red wine. Alcohol may help lower “bad” cholesterol, prevent blood clots, and ease your blood pressure. Go easy, of course. That usually means no more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men. If you don’t drink alcohol, though, don’t start.
Broccoli. Filled with all sorts of vitamins and antioxidants, broccoli is high in fiber, too.
Nuts. Full of Omega-3s, unsaturated fats (the good kind), fiber, and protein, nuts are heart-healthy nutrition in the palm of your hand. Shoot for five 1-ounce servings per week. The following examples equal 1 ounce:
18 medium cashews
12 hazelnuts or filberts
8 medium Brazil nuts
12 macadamia nuts
15 pecan halves
14 English walnut halves.
Making a 7-day meal plan each week can help to determine a well-balanced diet that will please your taste buds as well as your body, in addition to a more efficient shopping list. Be aware of your diet and eating habits and keep abreast of any significant changes in your appetite, weight loss, activities, and overall behavior.
If you have questions or concerns, talk to your health care provider. They can provide you with verbal advice or pamphlets, conduct any necessary exams, and can refer you to a dietitian for further discussion. The internet is also ‘nutrient-rich’ in nutritious meal plans, food scores, tips, and advice that are only a few clicks away. It’s never too soon to begin a healthier approach to eating while still enjoying all that the culinary world has to offer.