signs of malnutrition in elderly

John, 75

Chairman of the garden club
Rediscovered his Taste for Life

Spotting the first signs of malnutrition

We often only notice inadequate nutrition when a skirt suddenly becomes too loose or a belt no longer holds our trousers up properly. But tiredness and lethargy can also be indications of deficiencies. Inadequate nutrition often happens gradually.

Do you know your nutritional status?

When we are well, we do not think about the possibility that we too could be at risk of inadequate nutrition. But if you notice changes in yourself or people around you that indicate deficiencies of major nutrients, then don’t ignore them!

Who is at increased risk?

  • People 65+ living alone or in care homes
  • Adults after a stroke
  • People with neurological conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease
  • People with: problems chewing or swallowing, loss of appetite or immobility, psychological stress or depression, a changed sense of taste, medications

Warning signs of inadequate nutrition

  • Unintentional weight loss in the past 3 - 6  months
  • Weak muscles
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Low mood
  • An increase in illness or infections

Any diet that does not cover our nutritional requirements bears the risk of poor nutrition. So even in developed countries, inadequate nutrition and deficiencies of some nutrients are widespread.

Did you know?

1 in 3 older persons living independently are at risk of malnutrition.

The risk of malnutrition is 40% greater in people aged over 65 years than those less than 65 years.

The power of nutrition Check your nutritional status now!

John gets help

John often felt tired and listless, and made excuses several times for not meeting up with his rose-loving friends. But his friend Mark still visited him regularly and finally recommended that he consult his GP.

A lengthy conversation shed light for John on the natural changes as we get older. He recognised the importance of regular, balanced nutrition for his health, and this knowledge enabled him to change his habits and regain strength and vitality.

Components of a balanced diet


Our body needs energy to maintain all physiological functions. Energy is commonly measured in calories. Energy needs are individual, e.g. depending on your weighnt and activity level. Suffering from a disease may also increase your energy needs.

A sufficient energy intake is key to maintaining strength and power.


An essential nutrient for our body is protein. We need protein for the growth, development and maintenance of muscles as well as other cells in our body. Our muscles, the heart, the skin and the hair consist mainly of protein. Therefore, a lack of dietary protein has extensive effects on many organs and organ systems, which is where we first see the symptoms of an undersupply of nutrients.

When our muscles dwindle, our strength declines and we lose weight. The general sense of weakness can be followed by more frequent infections and lower resistance. We also take longer to become healthy again after an illness. The causes of poor wound healing or increased complications following treatment / surgery can also lie in an insufficient supply of essential nutrients.

Carbohydrates & fats

Carbohydrates and fats supply us with energy for our daily activities. As exercise/activity reduces with increasing age, we no longer require as much energy, but the requirements for other nutrients remain the same or even increase.Thus, we must continue to consume a balanced intake of foods including fruit, vegetables and oils.

Vitamins, minerals & trace elements

Vitamins, minerals and trace elements are important nutrients. They maintain the stability of our bones (calcium and vitamin D) or ensure the muscle function (magnesium, potassium and vitamin D) or guarantee the oxygen transport in the blood (iron).

Fluid intake

Around 65% of our body consists of water. We constantly lose fluid through the skin, our breath and urine. These losses of fluid have to be continuously compensated so that we do not become dehydrated. The metabolism can only function and nutrients can only be transported in a fluid.


As we get older, we often forget to drink, or deliberately avoid doing so in order not to have to constantly visit the toilet. Furthermore, kidney function can also be affected in old age. Thus, People 65+ often suffer fluctuations in their mineral balance, which can affect the heart, blood pressure and mental performance.

Fresenius Kabi Australia Pty Limited - A company of the Fresenius Group © June 2020