Loss of Appetite in the Elderly Reasons and Causes

Aging brings it with a list of complications for people and hence people hate getting older. Among the long list, loss of appetite is one such elderly problem. Read on to know more.

Loss of Appetite in the Elderly Reasons and Causes

A gradual reduction in appetite with advancing age is a common concern for people. With advancing age, most seniors eat less because of reduced energy needs. While, this often considered as a relatively normal part of aging, reduction in appetite should be considered as a warning sign of an underlying problem at some point.

A severe reduction in hunger along fatigue, weight loss, and other symptoms needs the attention of a medical professional. The factors affecting appetite in one older person may vary in another.

Causes of Appetite Loss in Aged

While the causes of appetite loss in older people can be due to many conditions, there are no clearly identifiable causes of the appetite loss. The reduction of appetite is not considered an issue if it isn’t severely compromising health but if it does so, it is important for family members to identify the causes behind the appetite problems in the elderly and seek medical assistance.

Chewing Problems

Chewing problem is one of the common causes of reduced appetite among elderly. While a number of mouth and tooth problems can affect chewing, common reasons include insufficient teeth, weakness and poor coordination of the muscles of mastication (chewing), poorly fitting dentures, and mouth ulcers, burning mouth syndrome, dry mouth and temporomandibular (TMJ) problems.

Impaired Senses

A reduced sense of smell and taste occurring with advancing age can affect their appetite. In fact the sense of sight also plays a role in appetite control. Likewise, other disturbances in taste and smell may minimize appetite including abnormalities in taste known as dysgeusia or more particularly a bad taste in the mouth (cacogeusia).

Gastrointestinal Diseases

Gastro problems are quite common in seniors and a number of such conditions may present with a loss of appetite. In several cases, these conditions remain unidentified in seniors. These can include issues with swallowing, gastrointestinal motility and indigestion of food. Associated gastrointestinal symptoms like heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, bloating and diarrhea may diminish from eating.

Endocrine Disorders

Diabetes mellitus is a usual endocrine complaint among the elderly and loss of appetite may be one of the symptoms. Often, it is likely to arise with diabetic complications such as gastro paresis or the use of diabetic medication such as metformin. In addition to these, there are other endocrine disorders which may also present with loss of appetite.

Mental Health

One of the leading causes of loss of appetite among the elderly is Depression. Sadness and despair in seniors may arise for various reasons which may overlap with socioeconomic and physical factors where a loss of appetite is present. Addiction, dementia, and eating disorders are other mental health conditions in seniors that may affect their appetite.

Physical Limitations

Physical limitation of seniors to shop for and prepare food is yet another factor to be considered. It may be associated with weakness in advancing age or musculoskeletal disorders limiting dexterity and strength.


Taking some or the other medications is common in elderly. And loss of appetite is one of the common side effects of several drugs. Since elderly are often prone to chronic diseases and requires long term cure, the loss of appetite may be due to medication. While these drugs may not directly impact the appetite, rather they contribute to other conditions such as gastrointestinal problems which may in turn impact normal appetite.


Socioeconomic factors are not always considered during eating disorder (anorexia) of aging. The implication of a long life or having inadequate financial support may force elderly to eat less. In addition, social isolation and living alone with physical incapabilities can also play a role in appetite among the elderly.

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