The association of xerostomia and inadequate intake in older adults

N. L. Rhodus, J. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Recent studies indicate that nearly one in five older adults has xerostomia (dry mouth). Salivary gland dysfunction and/or inadequate saliva increases the difficulty of these older adults in obtaining proper nutrition. Problems in lubricating, masticating, tolerating, tasting, and swallowing food contribute notably to the complex physiological and psychological manifestations of aging. To our knowledge, the literature has not demonstrated an association between xerostomia and malnutrition in the elderly. We randomly selected 67 older adults from institutionalized and free-living geriatric populations. Nutritional intake analysis was performed on both groups of study subjects, who were found to have xerostomia by use of sialometry, and on control subjects matched for age, sex, and physical status. Intake of total energy, protein, dietary fiber, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, calcium, iron, and zinc was compared with the 1989 Recommended Dietary Allowances. Subjects' intakes were also compared with that of a control group. Medical systemic information and number and types of medications were compared among the groups. Statistical analysis of the data indicated significant (p<.001) inadequacies in the nutritional intake patterns of institutionalized and free-living older adults with xerostomia. Subjects with xerostomia (more than 75% of the free-living and institutionalized seniors) had significant deficiencies of fiber, potassium, vitamin B-6, iron, calcium, and zinc. Taste and food perception were significantly reduced in the elders with xerostomia. Our study indicates the potential contribution of xerostomia to the high prevalence of geriatric malnutrition in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1688-1692
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 1990


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