How to Avoid Misunderstandings Regarding Senior Malnourishment

Senior malnourishment is a severe problem in the United States. Roughly 50% of older adults have a high risk of malnourishment due to various reasons, such as health neglect and low income.

The consequences of malnourishment are worse for older adults than for younger adults. That is why more older adults end up in the hospital due to malnourishment than younger adults. Seniors are even three times more likely to die from malnourishment too.

Therefore, it is critical for primary care physicians to educate senior patients about malnourishment and the consequences of not sticking to a nutritious diet. If you can reach a patient early enough, you can set them on a proper nutritional plan to prevent severe malnourishment from ruining their health and wellness.

What is Malnourishment?

 Malnourishment is a frequently misunderstood term. People often come up with their own conclusions as to what it means without actually researching the definition. Your senior patients may have misconceptions about malnourishment too. For this reason, you must debunk the various myths and misconceptions about malnourishment so that your patients don’t have any further misunderstandings about it.

Here are four myths about malnourishment you should debunk immediately:

Weight is Unrelated to Nutrition

 One common myth is that overweight people are overnourished because they overeat. However, packing on the calories doesn’t necessarily mean a person is getting the required amount of nutrients their body needs to stay healthy.

For instance, if a person eats a lot of sugary and salty foods, they will surely gain weight without consuming iron, calcium, protein, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. That is why weight doesn’t coincide with nutrition. On the flip side, a person who loses weight isn’t necessarily malnourished. In fact, it is possible to lose weight while eating a meal every three hours. They just need to be meals with the proper amount of calories and nutrients in them.

There are so many factors that contribute to a person’s nutrition. Weight is a starting point for measuring health, but it is only one factor. Nutrient consumption is far more important than weight when judging a person’s nutritional health.

A Hungry Person Isn’t Always Malnourished

 A person can be nourished and hungry simultaneously. For instance, if a patient drinks a lot of sugary soda and eats a bag of salty potato chips, they will feel full. However, they won’t receive the proper nourishment from these foods because they consist of fats, refined sugars, and salts.

The opposite is true too. For example, if a person eats a salad, they may still feel hungry afterward even though they consumed plenty of nutrients. So don’t associate hunger with malnourishment because they can be vastly different.

A Wealthy Person Cannot Be Malnourished

 Don’t assume wealthy patients must always be purchasing healthy and nutritious foods. If they lack an education in nutrition, they won’t necessarily know which foods at the grocery store are nutritious. You will need to educate your wealthier patients about proper nutrition to help them shop for better foods and prevent them from being malnourished.

Better Nutrition Means Eliminating Foods from a Diet

 Good nutrition and healthy eating doesn’t necessarily mean eating less. Your patients don’t have to cut their food intake as long as they eat plenty of nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. Perhaps you could connect them with a nutritionist or personal trainer to help them develop an eating plan where they can count their calorie and nutrient intake each day.

How to Talk to Seniors About Their Nutritional Health

 Any good primary care physician will talk with seniors about their eating habits and how they coincide with their health. It is even more important to discuss nutrition with your senior patients if they suffer from chronic illnesses due to poor diet choices.

Don’t criticize your senior patients or make them feel lousy about their daily food choices. Instead, ask them questions like “What kinds of foods do you eat every day?” and “Do you know how the foods you eat are affecting your weight and blood pressure?” Asking these questions will help you better understand the extent of your patient’s knowledge regarding their health.

As a result, you can properly educate your patient and let them know how their particular food choices are responsible for their current health conditions. Then you can make recommendations for a new diet plan to help them overcome these health problems. If you have already built a level of trust with your patient, they should listen to you.


There is so much nutrition misinformation promoted on television and the internet. Sometimes even doctors buy into the myths about nutrition, which is why so many patients are confused about it.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of nutrition and the common myths about it. Now you have the knowledge to educate your patients about nutrition and debunk these myths. After that, your patients should be able to improve their eating and nutrition in order to improve their overall health and wellness. That should be the primary goal for every senior patient you treat.

Call the Primary Medical Care Center at (305) 751-1500 for more information about senior malnourishment and guiding your senior patients on the road to better health and wellness through developing nutritious eating habits.