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Oncotarget. 2015 Jun 10;6(16):13858-98.

Understanding the gastrointestinal tract of the elderly to develop dietary solutions that prevent malnutrition.

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UMR 1019, UNH, CRNH Auvergne, INRA, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Clermont Université, Université d'Auvergne, Unité de Nutrition Humaine, BP 10448, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Department of Public Health, The S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 84105 Beer-Sheva, Israel.
Institute for Food Sciences IFS, Agroscope, Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, 3003 Berne, Switzerland.
Escola Superior Agrária, Insituto Politécnico de Santarém, 2001-904 Santarem, Portugal.
Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2780-157 Oeiras, Portugal.
Israeli Ministry of Health, 93591 Jerusalem, Israel.
Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica, 2780-157 Oeiras, Portugal.
Department of Agri-Food Sciences and Technologies, University of Bologna, 47521 Cesena, Italy.
UMR 1253, Science et Technologie du Lait & de l'Œuf, INRA, 35000 Rennes, France.
ainia Centro Tecnológico, E46980 Paterna (Valencia), Spain.


Although the prevalence of malnutrition in the old age is increasing worldwide a synthetic understanding of the impact of aging on the intake, digestion, and absorption of nutrients is still lacking. This review article aims at filling the gap in knowledge between the functional decline of the aging gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and the consequences of malnutrition on the health status of elderly. Changes in the aging GIT include the mechanical disintegration of food, gastrointestinal motor function, food transit, chemical food digestion, and functionality of the intestinal wall. These alterations progressively decrease the ability of the GIT to provide the aging organism with adequate levels of nutrients, what contributes to the development of malnutrition. Malnutrition, in turn, increases the risks for the development of a range of pathologies associated with most organ systems, in particular the nervous-, muscoskeletal-, cardiovascular-, immune-, and skin systems. In addition to psychological, economics, and societal factors, dietary solutions preventing malnutrition should thus propose dietary guidelines and food products that integrate knowledge on the functionality of the aging GIT and the nutritional status of the elderly. Achieving this goal will request the identification, validation, and correlative analysis of biomarkers of food intake, nutrient bioavailability, and malnutrition.


Gerotarget; aging; dietary solutions; gastrointestinal tract; malnutrition

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