Anorexia & the elderly

Dr Miriam Clegg is a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition. Her research is aiding the healthcare sector in understanding appetite, food intake control and energy balance in a variety of people. Miriam won an Oxford Brookes Research Excellence Award in 2016/17.

“Anorexia of ageing is a term used to describe a decrease in appetite that occurs in the elderly. Despite the increase in body fat and obesity that can occur with ageing, there is a linear decrease in food intake over the life span. This conundrum is partially explained by decreased physical activity and altered metabolism with ageing.

The implications for it are far reaching and can include decreases in fundamental activities such as dressing and eating as well as cognitive impairment, illness and eventual death.

In the UK free-living men and women aged 75-84 years were consuming just 88 % and 77 % of estimated requirements for energy

National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2016)

One of the reasons for anorexia of ageing is delayed emptying of food from the stomach in the elderly. In younger individuals, gastric emptying has been shown to be accelerated in those who exercise regularly, which may mean that they will not stay full for as long.

I have already carried out a systematic review of any available studies looking at the relationship between appetite, physical activity and ageing and found that there is very little research available on the effect of exercise on appetite in older adults.

Going forward I expect the wider benefits of this ongoing research to help minimise the impact on the healthcare system through simple and cost effective approaches to reduce malnutrition in the elderly.”

The Research Excellence Awards were launched in 2016 to support research-active academics. Miriam was one of the inaugural recipients.
Find out who won awards in 2017 »