It’s been widely accepted as conventional wisdom that weight loss is a “young person’s game.” The thinking has been that our metabolisms aren’t as efficient at 60 as they are at 30, making weight loss harder if not nearly impossible. New research say that isn’t really the case.
According to new research from the folks at the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW,) those who are obese and over 60 can use lifestyle and habit changes to lose weight. Additionally, they don’t seem to be at a significant disadvantage to younger people.
Their study analyzed data mined from patient records from an obesity service provided through hospitals. The study is published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.
As mentioned above, most people, including many in the medical and fitness professions, still believe, to varying degrees, that weight loss is harder as we age. The scientists who did this study are hoping to dispel some of those misconceptions. The benefits to older people of changing lifestyle to lose weight go well beyond losing a few – or a lot of – pounds.
This was a retrospective study and was performed at WISDEM, or the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at UHCW. 242 patients who took advantage of the obesity service at WISDEM between 2005 and 2016 were chosen randomly and split into groups. On group was those under 60. The other was those 60 to 78 years of age. All successfully lost weight on the program.
Most of the patients referred to the WISDEM program were considered morbidly obese, with BMIs generally over 40. The program took an individual approach to changing habits and lifestyles. Physical activity was encouraged, changes in diet were made and psychological support was provided.
Body weight was measured both before and after the lifestyle changes were implemented, with the percentage of body weight lost measured in both groups. Interestingly, the “old timers” hung in well with the “whipper snappers.” The over-60 group lost an average of 7.3% of their body weight over an average of 33.6 months. The 60 and under group lost an average of 6.9% of body weight over an average of 41.5 months in the program.
Numerous co-morbidities are associated with obesity, so losing excess weight and managing a healthy lifestyle are important to both current states of health and longevity. In fact, at least 50 negative health outcomes are related to obesity, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, as well as psychiatric problems like depression and anxiety.
Dr. Thomas Barber of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, lead author of the study. said: “Weight loss is important at any age, but as we get older we’re more likely to develop the weight-related co-morbidities of obesity. Many of these are similar to the effects of aging, so you could argue that the relevance of weight loss becomes heightened as we get older, and this is something that we should embrace.
“There are a number of reasons why people may discount weight loss in older people. These include an ‘ageist’ perspective that weight-loss is not relevant to older people and misconceptions of reduced ability of older people to lose weight through dietary modification and increased exercise. Older people may feel that hospital-based obesity services are not for them. Service providers and policymakers should appreciate the importance of weight loss in older people with obesity, for the maintenance of health and wellbeing, and the facilitation of healthy ageing. Furthermore, age per se should not contribute towards clinical decisions regarding the implementation of lifestyle management of older people.
“Age should be no barrier to lifestyle management of obesity. Rather than putting up barriers to older people accessing weight loss programmes, we should be proactively facilitating that process. To do otherwise would risk further and unnecessary neglect of older people through societal ageist misconceptions.”
The conventional wisdom about weight loss as we age may turn out to be more old wives tale than anything else. If weight is an issue for you, take it on and get it under control – no matter how old you are!
Keep the faith and keep after it!
Journal Reference – Eimear Leyden, Petra Hanson, Louise Halder, Lucy Rout, Ishbel Cherry, Emma Shuttlewood, Donna Poole, Mark Loveder, Jenny Abraham, Ioannis Kyrou, Harpal S. Randeva, FT Lam, Vinod Menon, Thomas M. Barber. Older age does not influence the success of weight loss through the implementation of lifestyle modification. Clinical Endocrinology, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/cen.14354