J Korean Med Assoc.  2015 Nov;58(11):1027-1033. 10.5124/jkma.2015.58.11.1027.

Appetite stimulants for older persons

  • 1Department of Family Medicine and Geriatrics, Dongtan Sacred Heart Hospital, Hallym University College of Medicine, Dongtan, Korea.


Anorexia is one of the most common issues in older patients. Although there is a tendency for loss of appetite in older persons due to decreased physical activity and reduced resting metabolic rate, this physiological anorexia of aging can easily develop into progressive anorexia and weight loss. This pathologic anorexia and resultant weight loss is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, especially in the frail elderly. To prevent older persons from entering a vicious cycle of frailty, that is, anorexia-malnutrition-sarcopenia-functional impairment, routine screening for anorexia and malnutrition should be implemented in geriatric clinical practice. All anorexic elderly patients should be strongly encouraged to maintain their nutrition, and appetite stimulants can be considered if non-pharmacological interventions are not effective. Although there are no US or Korea Food and Drug Administration approved medications for geriatric-specific anorexia and weight loss, several appetite stimulants can be prescribed and are used widely. Megestrol acetate is the most widely studied and commonly used of these drugs. Cyproheptadine, dronabinol, mirtazapine, corticosteroids, anabolic steroids (e.g., testosterone or oxandrolone), and growth hormone are also effective in increasing appetite or weight. However, the use of these orexigenic agents should occur only after their benefit-to-risk ratio has been carefully considered.


Anorexia; Weight loss; Older persons; Appetite stimulant
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