Weight loss occurs when an individual’s food intake is less than his or her needs. Weight loss should be a cause for concern, and seen as a warning sign, whenever it occurs unintentionally, that is, whenever it is not programmed or intentional.
The main causes of weight loss are decreased appetite and the practice of a monotonous and/or restrictive eating pattern. These motivate an insufficient intake and/or absorption of energy and nutrients, which can lead to the development of malnutrition. Although weight loss is an important sign, it is the speed and percentage of the loss in relation to the usual/previous weight that determines its severity.
To find out if the weight loss is serious or not, the most used parameter is the percentage of weight loss over time and is calculated from the senior’s usual weight and current weight:
% weight loss = [Usual weight (kg) – current weight (kg)/usual weight] x 100
The table below shows the results that make it possible to know the severity of the weight loss depending on the time period in which it occurred:
For example: if an individual is 65kg, and involuntarily loses 5kg in a month, it means that he/she lost 8% of his/her weight in the last month, and this is considered a serious weight loss.
In the presence of inflammation, and through the physiological processes characteristic of aging, anorexia develops, which we commonly refer to as loss of appetite. Particularly in the elderly individual, after periods of reduced intake, often motivated by the presence of acute illness, it becomes particularly difficult to revert the pattern of intake to previously ingested amounts and volumes.
Thus, involuntary weight loss associated with loss of appetite should be detected early, so that intervention can be as brief and successful as possible, preventing the development of malnutrition.
Malnutrition, defined by the European Society of Clinical Nutrition (ESPEN) as a change in body composition and body cell mass, resulting from insufficient intake or absorption, which results in decreased physical and cognitive function, is a frequent problem in the elderly, with relevant prevalence in hospital settings and geriatric residences. Usually, malnutrition develops over a prolonged period of time of inadequate intake and/or increased requirements, due to inflammatory, hypermetabolic, and/or hypercatabolic states, and poor nutrient absorption, resulting in weight loss and, followed by body composition changes, such as loss of muscle mass.
Malnutrition is characterized by physiological aspects (weight loss, low BMI, and loss of muscle mass) and by aspects related to its etiology, namely the presence of inflammation resulting from acute, chronic, or acuteized chronic disease, and/or decreased food intake or absorption. Even in individuals with an adequate nutritional and energy intake, their nutritional status may be compromised by changes in metabolism, drug-nutrient interactions or changes in their nutritional needs.
There are several risk factors for the development of malnutrition, including advanced age, institutionalization, declining health status, loss of interest in living, polymedication, chewing and/or swallowing difficulties, frailty, depression, and loss of functional capacity.
Malnutrition is a clinical condition with important adverse effects on health status, particularly in the elderly, including decreased functional capacity, increased risk of falls, increased risk of developing pressure ulcers, compromised immune system, poor quality of life, increased length of hospital stay, and increased mortality. Thus, its prevention, as well as an early diagnosis, is fundamental to be able to intervene by providing an adequate energy and nutritional intake.
To help in these situations, there are oral nutritional supplements, which are liquid, creamy or powdered, complete or incomplete formulas/diets that provide calories, macronutrients (such as proteins, carbohydrates and/or lipids) and micronutrients (such as vitamins and/or minerals) and can help meet the patient’s needs in a safe, tasty and practical way and reverse involuntary weight loss and malnutrition, whenever the traditional diet is not enough.
Learn more about Resource® oral nutritional supplements that can help with unintentional weight loss and malnutrition.
– In what situations should I use oral nutritional supplements?
You should resort to supplementation when it is not possible to meet your energy and nutritional needs through traditional food, or in specific clinical situations that require it.
– Which health professional can advise me on how to take these oral nutritional supplements?
Oral nutritional supplements can be advised by your health care professional, namely a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or nutritionist.
– Where can I buy these oral nutritional supplements?
Oral nutritional supplements are available in pharmacies and parapharmacies.