The nutritional requirements of older adults differ from that of younger adults because of normal metabolic and body composition changes that are associated with aging and the underlying medical comorbidities.

There are simple tools that can be used for screening and assessment of nutrition in older adults and these include testing for albumin levels, prealbumin levels and cholesterol levels. There is also a Mini Nutritional Assessment test which is a self-assessment interactive tool that can be used for the same.

Many medications can cause anorexia and some of them include common medications like antacids (Pepcid), antibiotics, diuretics (water pills), laxatives, metformin (diabetes medication) and proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and omeprazole which are used for heartburn symptoms.

Many patients request weight loss during their regular visits and it is of great importance that therapeutic diets should be avoided unless the benefit of weight loss outweighs the potential adverse effects.

Clinically significant weight loss is commonly defined as loss of 10 pounds, or more than 5 percent of usual body weight over 6-12 months. Weight loss of more than 10 percent of the body weight usually represents protein-energy undernutrition and more than 20 percent loss in body weight usually denotes impairment of major physiological functions. A BMI less than 17 is consistent with undernutrition, BMI greater than 35 is associated with increased risk of functional decline.

If you feel like your weight loss is involuntary, please reach out to your physician provider to find out the possible cause as it can vary anywhere from cancer to non-cancerous diseases, psychosocial factors and chronic medications.

Anyone who would like to ask me a medical question relating to the health of older adults can email me at I hope to provide a helpful answer in a future issue of this newspaper.

Disclaimer: The information shared in this column is based on current practice guidelines but is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

Arvind M. Selvan M.D.