The 7 Ages of Appetite

5 April, 2021
This article has been written and endorsed by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez
During the early stages of life, a greater amount of energy is needed to meet the nutrient needs for the development phase.

The appetite mechanism is very complex. There’s no one single stimulus that’s capable of activating it. In fact, it’s determined by several different factors. In addition, its sensitivity varies as the years go by, being more intense in some stages of life than in others.

It should be noted that, under normal conditions, the appetite is largely conditioned by energy and nutrient needs. At the end of the day, this sensation is nothing more than an indicator that the body needs elements to be able to perform its functions normally.

The ages of appetite

The appetite in adults is different.
There are changes in appetite depending on age.

We’re now going to tell you how the sensation of appetite evolves over the years, and what the nutritional needs are in each of these stages.

First stage: up to 10 years

During childhood, the body undergoes rapid growth. Organs and tissues develop and their function improves. In addition, all the dietary habits that are acquired during these stages can influence the state of health during adulthood, so deciding on a good diet is key.

In general, appetite is self-regulating during this period, unless there are underlying hormonal problems. Identifying them would require an accurate diagnosis and a series of complementary tests.

In these cases, it would almost certainly be necessary to resort to some pharmacological treatment. Thus, we can ensure good development, and health problems can be prevented in the medium term.

It must be borne in mind that during childhood it’s vital to provide proteins and fats in their necessary quantities. Proteins are responsible for building tissue, which is why they are essential elements in order to guarantee growth.

According to a study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism magazine, it’s advisable not to lose 1.5 grams of protein/kilogram of body weight per day in children under 10 years of age.

In addition, this stage is key to promoting other good habits of life, such as practicing physical activity on a regular basis. Exercise also contributes to the proper growth and development of organs. On the other hand, it can help to prevent the development of chronic diseases in adulthood.

From 10 to 20 years old

At this time the body is still continuing its growing process, and so it’s still vital to provide protein in high amounts in order to avoid experiencing developmental problems. At the same time, the intake of fatty acids will also be important in order to modulate hormonal mechanisms and ensure their proper functioning.

Among them, special mention must be made of omega 3, since they have been shown to be capable of reducing systemic inflammation, thus improving health. On the other hand, it will be important to introduce vegetables regularly and plan a diet that’s as varied as possible.

At this time it’s quite normal to experience an increase in appetite compared to the previous stage. This is because physical activity increases. Intellectual activity also increases, with a greater workload at school, which implies a considerable energy demand.

Of course, it’s important to ensure that the energy balance is maintained in order to prevent a person from becoming overweight.

In addition to this, the energy has to be supplied by means of natural foods. This means that, as far as possible, industrial ultra-processed food must be restricted. In fact, the regular consumption of these products is one of the chimeras of nutrition in adolescents today.

These types of food have simple sugars and trans-type fatty acids capable of negatively impacting the state of health. This is evidenced by an investigation published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome. You always have to prioritize vegetables, fish, meats, dairy, and eggs.

From 20 to 30 years old

At this period of life, there are several changes in terms of lifestyle habits. In many cases, the work stage begins and, unfortunately, physical activity is reduced. Although this is bad news, it’s a reality.

In this sense, it’s important to make young people aware of the importance of continuing to exercise regularly throughout their lives.

Be that as it may, appetite tends to be lower, as energy demands are reduced under less active conditions. It is key to adjust energy intake to spending, so as not to generate an increase in fat deposits in the body.

It should be remembered that both being overweight and being obese increases a person’s chances of becoming ill, according to a study published in Circulation Research.

At this time, it may be beneficial to reduce the intake of carbohydrates, as these nutrients have a fundamentally energetic function. If physical activity is reduced, the demands on them by the human body are reduced. For this reason, proposing a diet where the main ingredients are proteins and lipids makes a lot of sense.

Furthermore, this strategy could be useful in order to prevent the development of certain complex pathologies in future life. Among them, we can highlight those of a cardiovascular type and cancer.

However, it must be taken into account that the need for sugars will always be dependent on the activity carried out. If this isn’t reduced, then there’s no reason to limit the presence of carbohydrates in the diet.

From 30 to 40 years old

At this stage of life, people become more susceptible to developing stress and anxiety processes, due to family and workloads. In addition, many begin to develop health problems derived from unhealthy behavior in earlier stages.

For this reason, the appetite can suffer ups and downs, as it’s conditioned, among other things, by the state of mind.

It must be taken into account that stressful situations can lead certain people to eat more than they should. In these cases, fiber consumption must be prioritized, as this substance is capable of increasing the feeling of satiety.

It can also be helpful to consume a glass of water before meals, as evidenced by research published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research.

Likewise, its still a priority to guarantee a high intake of vegetables, in order to obtain the necessary antioxidants on a daily basis. You can even consider supplementation, if necessary, with some essential nutrients that can provide added value, such as omega 3, magnesium, or even vitamin D.

However, the consumption of these products must be recommended and supervised by a professional.

From 40 to 50 years

At this time of life, the amount of muscle mass in the body and strength levels begin to decrease in people who don’t have an active lifestyle. To avoid such a situation, it’s necessary to increase protein intake. It must be remembered that a loss of lean tissue is related to a worse state of health.

At the same time, at this stage, there can be a considerable reduction in appetite, as energy demands are much lower than those established in previous periods.

The most advisable thing is that the decrease in energy intake comes from a certain limitation of carbohydrates, as proteins and fats are still important at this time.

In any case, you should avoid going on extreme diets to promote weight loss, such as miracle diets, at this stage of life. These can have very negative consequences in the medium-term. It has a harmful impact on the body, altering its metabolic capacity and creating deficits of essential nutrients.

From 50 to 60 years

Appetite can be lost with age.
Appetite may decrease at this stage of life

At this stage of life, the hormones undergo drastic alterations in terms of their production, especially those of a sexual nature. This leads to significant changes in appetite levels and sensations throughout the day.

A person’s appetite and the taste of food also varies. For example, people may prefer to cut back on red meat because it has an unpleasant metallic taste.

However, and despite the fact that the diet must be adapted to the tastes of the individual, it’s vital to continue maintaining an adequate protein intake during this period. Otherwise, the loss of muscle mass will increase by leaps and bounds, which is considered harmful.

At the same time, it should be noted that sleep is altered from the age of 50. This is because the production of melatonin in the pineal gland is greatly reduced. For this reason, supplementation with the hormone exogenously can be very beneficial in order to compensate for the deficit.

While melatonin can have a positive impact on health at almost any time in life, after 50 years of age it’s vital.

From the 60s onwards

Once you’re over 60, the amount of food you need per day is greatly reduced, along with your appetite. Therefore, it’s necessary to opt for foods that have a high nutritional density, in order to avoid deficits of essential nutrients.

During this stage, swallowing and chewing problems may also occur, and so it’s often necessary to make adaptations in the diet. The objective is to facilitate the consumption of food in order to meet caloric requirements.

Experts say that reducing carbohydrates to a minimum could be beneficial at this time, although not everyone tolerates such protocols well. The best thing is to adapt to individual needs, including the use of certain supplements.

Appetite and nutritional needs change over the years

As you’ve seen, both the nutritional needs and the sensation of appetite vary over time. It’s always necessary to adapt to changes in order to guarantee good health. In this way, the risk of getting ill is significantly reduced.

  • Richter M, Baerlocher K, Bauer JM, Elmadfa I, Heseker H, Leschik-Bonnet E, Stangl G, Volkert D, Stehle P; on behalf of the German Nutrition Society (DGE). Revised Reference Values for the Intake of Protein. Ann Nutr Metab. 2019;74(3):242-250. doi: 10.1159/000499374. Epub 2019 Mar 22. PMID: 30904906; PMCID: PMC6492513.
  • Ishihara T, Yoshida M, Arita M. Omega-3 fatty acid-derived mediators that control inflammation and tissue homeostasis. Int Immunol. 2019 Aug 23;31(9):559-567. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxz001. PMID: 30772915.
  • Islam MA, Amin MN, Siddiqui SA, Hossain MP, Sultana F, Kabir MR. Trans fatty acids and lipid profile: A serious risk factor to cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2019 Mar-Apr;13(2):1643-1647. doi: 10.1016/j.dsx.2019.03.033. Epub 2019 Mar 16. PMID: 31336535.
  • Ortega FB, Lavie CJ, Blair SN. Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease. Circ Res. 2016 May 27;118(11):1752-70. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.306883. PMID: 27230640.
  • Jeong JN. Effect of Pre-meal Water Consumption on Energy Intake and Satiety in Non-obese Young Adults. Clin Nutr Res. 2018 Oct;7(4):291-296. doi: 10.7762/cnr.2018.7.4.291. Epub 2018 Oct 31. PMID: 30406058; PMCID: PMC6209729.