Malnutrition in the elderly: A narrative review

Ekta Agarwal, Michelle Miller, Alison Yaxley, Elisabeth Isenring

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

291 Citations (Scopus)


The focus of nutrition is often on healthy diets and exercise to minimise the risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, during the shift into older years often the nutrition priorities change towards meeting increased nutrient needs with less energy requirements, and minimising lean muscle loss. There are several causes of general malnutrition in the elderly that lead to depletion of muscle including starvation (protein-energy malnutrition), sarcopenia and cachexia. The prevalence of protein-energy malnutrition increases with age and the number of comorbidities. A range of simple and validated screening tools can be used to identify malnutrition in older adults, e.g. MST, MNA-SF and 'MUST'. Older adults should be screened for nutritional issues at diagnosis, on admission to hospitals or care homes and during follow up at outpatient or General Practitioner clinics, at regular intervals depending on clinical status. Early identification and treatment of nutrition problems can lead to improved outcomes and better quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-302
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Cachexia
  • Elderly
  • Nutritional management
  • Prevalence
  • Protein-energy malnutrition
  • Sarcopenia


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