Assessment of nutritional status in the elderly: a proposed function-driven model

  • Stina Engelheart
  • Robert Brummer
Keywords: nutritional status, nutritional assessment, elderly people, comprehensive geriatric assessment


Background: There is no accepted or standardized definition of ‘malnutrition’. Hence, there is also no definition of what constitutes an adequate nutritional status. In elderly people, assessment of nutritional status is complex and is complicated by multi-morbidity and disabilities combined with nutrition-related problems, such as dysphagia, decreased appetite, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

Objective: We propose a nutritional status model that presents nutritional status from a comprehensive functional perspective. This model visualizes the complexity of the nutritional status in elderly people.

Design and results: The presented model could be interpreted as the nutritional status is conditional to a person’s optimal function or situation. Another way of looking at it might be that a person’s nutritional status affects his or her optimal situation. The proposed model includes four domains: (1) physical function and capacity; (2) health and somatic disorders; (3) food and nutrition; and (4) cognitive, affective, and sensory function. Each domain has a major impact on nutritional status, which in turn has a major impact on the outcome of each domain.

Conclusions: Nutritional status is a multifaceted concept and there exist several knowledge gaps in the diagnosis, prevention, and optimization of treatment of inadequate nutritional status in elderly people. The nutritional status model may be useful in nutritional assessment research, as well as in the clinical setting.


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How to Cite
Engelheart S, Brummer R. Assessment of nutritional status in the elderly: a proposed function-driven model. Food & Nutrition Research [Internet]. 17Apr.2018 [cited 14Aug.2018];62. Available from:
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