As we age, our sense of smell and taste increasingly become less sensitive. This, coupled with deteriorating dental health and reduced physical activity, can lead to lower appetites and thus, insufficient nutrient intakes and possible unintended weight loss.
Changes in absorption in the digestive tract also occur as part of ageing. Otherwise healthy individuals may have poor absorption of fat, which may lead to both weight loss and vitamin deficiency. Vitamin deficiency occurs because some vitamins, specifically vitamin A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble, requiring fat for the body to absorb them.
Last but not least, there is the problem of lactose intolerance or malabsorption in elderly patients. The decline in ageing results in a decrease in the production of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. With low levels of lactase, elderly individuals who ingest lactose-containing food, such as some milk-based oral supplements, may develop bloating, nausea, and even diarrhoea. These symptoms can result in an even poorer nutritional status.
With all of these problems developing as one ages, the challenge is to find an oral nutritional supplement that takes all of these into consideration.