For a very long time, physicians have been laying blame on the hormone ghrelin – a hormone that tells the body when you are hungry – for loss of weight and under nutrition among elderly people. People in this age bracket experience lack of appetite, which is a condition referred to as anorexia of aging. This leads to loss of weight.
Loss of appetite can also be attributed to other factors, such as depression or grief. A recent study by UK Dietetics Professor Mary Hickson unmasked yet another chief contributor of anorexia among the aged, Peptide YY hormone (PYY). This hormone is responsible for letting a person know when they are full. Unfortunately, the bodies of these older people produce lots of this hormone.
Mary Hickson’s study involved six healthy women in their 80s who ate breakfast after fasting for hours. She also had women in different age brackets do the same and then compared the results. The younger women’s age brackets were 20 – 39, 40 – 59, and 60 – 79. She then measured the levels of PYY and ghrelin in intervals of three hours. It was then noted that the levels of PYY among the older women was very high when compared to those of the young women. Ghrelin among all participants remained unchanged.
This research showed that there was a relationship between the amount of PYY produced in the body and lack of appetite, which leads to loss of weight. However, she recommended that the study be carried out among many participants of different ages and genders so as to get more accurate results.
One of the challenges she experienced when carrying out the experiment was that it difficult to get healthy women of age 80 and over.