There are so many factors affecting appetite and food intake in the elderly that one of the most obvious is often overlooked—taste.
Changes in the body resulting from aging impact the sensory system and may result in appetite depression leading to weight loss, malnutrition, and deterioration of other medical conditions. A cycle starts to develop that exacerbates declining health.
A loss of taste begins for most of us in middle age and continues to fade. As seniors’ ability to smell, and thus taste diminishes, the challenge becomes how to get the nutrients you need and enjoy the food you’re eating.
The list of contributors to declining smell, taste, and appetite is virtually endless. A history of illness i.e., allergies, upper respiratory infections, as well as head injuries can impact your senses. As we age and produce less saliva, “dry mouth” becomes a common complaint. Dry mouth frequently accelerates tooth decay, loss, the need for dentures, and overall mouth sensitivity. In addition, many medications can greatly affect taste.
The elderly commonly lose their sense of salty taste and tend to overuse salt. An increase in salt and sugar can bring on or aggravate other health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. A reduced ability to recognize spoiled food might lead to food poisoning, resulting in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The cycle feeds on itself—no pun intended.
If possible, seek the help of a dietitian to develop food lists that are appetizing to you. Some senior centers provide guidance or workshops on nutrition. Ask your primary care provider about programs that might be available.
Enhancing variety, flavor, even altering temperature can go a long way to improving your interest in food. There are many great articles on-line that offer insight and suggestions. Visit http://longevity.about.com/od/agingproblems/a/Is-Your-Taste-Changing-With-Age.htm for more information and simple steps to follow.