Malnutrition in older adults has been recognised as a challenging health concern associated with not only increased mortality and morbidity, but also with physical decline, which has wide ranging acute implications for activities of daily living and quality of life in general. Malnutrition is common and may also contribute to the development of the geriatric syndromes in older adults. Malnutrition in the old is reflected by either involuntary weight loss or low body mass index, but hidden deficiencies such as micronutrient deficiencies are more difficult to assess and therefore frequently overlooked in the community-dwelling old. In developed countries, the most cited cause of malnutrition is disease, as both acute and chronic disorders have the potential to result in or aggravate malnutrition. Therefore, as higher age is one risk factor for developing disease, older adults have the highest risk of being at nutritional risk or becoming malnourished. However, the aetiology of malnutrition is complex and multifactorial, and the development of malnutrition in the old is most likely also facilitated by ageing processes. This comprehensive narrative review summarizes current evidence on the prevalence and determinants of malnutrition in old adults spanning from age-related changes to disease-associated risk factors, and outlines remaining challenges in the understanding, identification as well as treatment of malnutrition, which in some cases may include targeted supplementation of macro- and/or micronutrients, when diet alone is not sufficient to meet age-specific requirements.
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