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Physiol Rev. 2006 Apr;86(2):651-67.

Nutrition and aging: changes in the regulation of energy metabolism with aging.

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The Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Changes in energy regulation occur during normal aging and contribute to the common phenomenon of weight and fat losses late in life. This review synthesizes data on aging-related changes in energy intake and energy expenditure and on the regulation of energy intake and expenditure. The ability of older adults to accurately regulate energy intake is impaired, with a number of possible explanations including delayed rate of absorption of macronutrients secondary to reductions in taste and smell acuity and numerous hormonal and metabolic mediators of energy regulation that change with aging. There are also changes in patterns of dietary intake and a reduction in the variety of foods consumed in old age that are thought to further reduce energy intake. Additionally, all components of energy expenditure decrease with aging, in particular energy expenditure for physical activity and basal metabolic rate, and the ability of energy expenditure to increase or decrease to attenuate energy imbalance during overeating or undereating also decreases. Combined, these changes result in an increased susceptibility to energy imbalance (both positive and negative) in old age that is associated with deteriorations in health. Practical interventions for prevention of weight and fat fluctuations in old age are anticipated here based on emerging knowledge of the role of such factors as dietary variety, taste, and palatability in late-life energy regulation.

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