Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Unintentional Weight Loss in Older Adults


Am Fam Physician. 2014 May 1;89(9):online.

  See related article on unintentional weight loss in older adults.

How do I know if I'm losing weight or not eating well?

If your clothes are getting loose, it could be a sign you are losing weight. Any of the following could mean you aren't eating well:

  • You have an illness that makes you change the kind or amount of food you eat

  • You eat fewer than two meals per day

  • You don't eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, or milk products

  • You have three or more alcoholic drinks almost every day

  • You have tooth or mouth problems that make it hard for you to eat

  • You don't always have enough money to buy the food you need

  • You eat alone most of the time

  • You take at least three different prescription or over-the-counter medicines per day

  • Without wanting to, you have lost or gained 10 lb in the past six months

  • You can't always shop, cook, or feed yourself without help

When should I worry about the weight I've lost?

If you are older than 65 years, you should see your doctor if you lose 5% of your body weight over six to 12 months without trying.

What can I do to stop losing weight?

  • Drink nutrition shakes (examples are Boost and Ensure) 90 minutes before meals to help increase the amount of calories you are getting.

  • Put flavor enhancers, such as ham, natural bacon, or roast beef flavor, on your food; this may help you to eat more.

  • Avoid eating alone.

  • If the cost of or access to food is a problem, ask your doctor about resources that can help you.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2014 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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