A healthy weight is important at every stage of life for maintaining good health and personal productivity and especially important to the elderly because of the physiological changes that occur in the body as people age. Weight loss and a low body weight are two risk factors associated with inadequate calorie and protein consumption in the elderly. A low body weight can have a negative impact on strength, energy levels and overall quality of life.
Older Adults and Weight Loss
Caloric intakes have the potential to decline as much as 500 to 1,000 calories per day in older adults between the ages of 65 and 85. Many factors contribute to weight loss, including depression, pain, use of multiple medications, infections and chronic conditions and diseases. If poor oral intake is to blame for weight loss, beverages and supplements can replace missed calories. A registered dietitian can provide individualized nutritional counseling for a weight gain regimen.
Incorporating high-calorie beverages in a daily routine can help ensure weight gain for the elderly person. Whole milk, chocolate milk, smoothies and 100-percent juice are a few examples of high-calorie beverages. Drinking 8 ounces of whole or chocolate milk and 6 ounces of 100-percent juice at all three meals will increase caloric intake by 630 calories. Smoothies can pack up to 500 calories if made with whole milk, fruit, yogurt and protein powders.
Several types of over-the-counter nutritional supplements are available to increase calorie and protein intake and thus promote weight gain for the elderly. Consume supplements between meals to replace missed calories due to poor intakes at meal times. For example, Ensure and Ensure Plus provide 250 and 350 calories respectively per can. Carnation Instant Breakfast packs 260 calories per bottle. Add ice cream and whole milk to these to create a shake enhanced with additional calories and protein. According to "Best Practice Advocacy Centre," positive results develop when drinks or supplements are available in a variety of flavors, consistencies and temperatures.
Some therapeutic supplements are designed for chronic diseases like diabetes and kidney failure. For example, Glucerna Snack Shake, a supplement designated for diabetics, provides additional calories while maintaining blood sugar levels. Glucerna provides 140 calories and 19 grams of carbohydrates per can. Another supplement available is Nepro, a high-calorie protein supplement low in potassium and phosphorus -- all appropriate for those with kidney failure. Nepro contains 425 calories and 19 grams of protein per can.
Consult a physician or registered dietitian before starting a weight gain regimen.
Is This an Emergency?
- Nutrition Care of Older Adults: Doner, B., Niedert, K.
- American Family Physician: Evaluating and Treating Unintentional Weight Loss in the Elderly.
- Exchange list
- Ensure: Nutrition in Charge
- Carnation Instant Breakfast: Breakfast Essentials
- 6. Best Practice Advocacy Centre: Strategies to Improve Nutrition in Elderly People
- Glucerna: Helping People with Diabetes Find Balance
- Nepro: Therapeutic Nutrition for People on Dialysis