Researchers recently studied the effect of age on weight loss efforts.
The obesity epidemic currently affects over 300 million people around the world. Even developing nations suffer with as many as 115 million people classified as obese. Obesity is related to many other diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and even cancer. Obesity speeds the aging process and increases the likelihood of suffering from one of these diseases.
While obesity can impact people of any age, older obese individuals are less likely to receive surgical treatment. Losing weight at any age can be difficult, but often seems to be harder as a person ages.
Researchers from the University of Warwick at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) in the UK recently conducted a retrospective study focusing on age and weight loss. Their results were published in Clinical Endocrinology.
The study reviewed 242 people classified as obese between 2005 and 2016. The patients were divided into groups: group 1, under 60 years old and group 2, aged 60 or older. Both groups were enrolled in a weight loss management program that used only lifestyle changes to lose weight. The strategy was tailored to the individual patient and included dietary changes, mental health support, and exercise.
The patients from both groups spent an average of about three years in the weight loss management program. Body mass index was taken for each patient at the beginning of the program. The percentage reduction in weight was measured for each group.
Group 1 lost 7.3% and group 2 lost 6.9%. The study suggested increased age does not prevent weight loss. Study limitations included the design, which was retrospective, oldest patient was 78, and difference in the patients’ initial BMI.
Study author Dr. Thomas Barber commented in a press release, “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.”
He concluded, “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.”
Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.
“Controlling the Global Obesity Epidemic.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/activities/controlling-the-global-obesity-epidemic.
Leyden, E, Hanson, P, Halder, L, et al. Older age does not influence the success of weight loss through the implementation of lifestyle modification. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2020; 00: 1– 6. https://doi.org/10.1111/cen.14354