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Weight loss in later life not a normal part of ageing

Published on 13 March 2017 11:00 AM

A new study from the Malnutrition Task Force has found that we are wrong to assume that it is normal to lose weight as we age.

Not a normal part of ageing

The Malnutrition Task Force found that over five million (36%) of people aged 60 and over in the UK think it's perfectly normal to lose weight as you get older.

75% of people said they had never worried about themselves or another older person unintentially losing weight, despite the fact that this is not a normal part of ageing. 

Don't ignore the warning signs

To mark Nutrition and Hydration Week (13-17 March), the task force is urging older people to take unexplained weight loss seriously.

Lesley Carter, Malnutrition Task Force Lead explained further: "We all know that obesity causes serious health problems but there are also serious health consequences for older people who are at the other end of the scale and don't eat enough. Many ignore the warning signs, or simply do not pay attention when they start to manifest."

Under-nutrition is a major cause and consequence of poor health, and affects around one in ten people over 65. Older people who are at most risk of becoming undernourished often feel lonely or have had a change in circumstances such as bereavement which may have affected their appetite.

Serious consequences of malnutrition

Compared to well-nourished individuals, people who are undernourished are twice as likely to visit their GP, have more hospital admissions and stay in hospital longer when they are admitted. Treating someone who is malnourished is two to three times more expensive than for someone who is not malnourished.

If you are worried that you or a loved one may be underweight

If you think that you or someone you know may be under a healthy weight or malnourished, here are some things you could do: 

  • Look for signs of unintentional weight loss, such as rings or watches being looser or falling off.
  • Think about how to talk to them about it and consider using the easy to use self-screening tool at malnutritionselfscreening.org.
  • If you are worried, talk to your GP or Practice Nurse, tell friends or family about your concerns and find out more about eating for health in old age at www.malnutritiontaskforce.org.uk.

Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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