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It’s Never Too Late to Slim Down

You may have heard that, as you get older, it’s hard—if not impossible—to see substantial weight loss at your age. Maybe you’ve tried and simply given up.

If so, our family practice doctors have some good news for you. According to researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK, obese people over the age of 60 are just as capable of losing weight as their younger counterparts.

“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,” lead researcher at the Warwick Medical School, Dr. Thomas Barber, said in a release accompanying the study, published last month in the journal Clinical Endocrinology. “Many of these [co-morbidities] 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.”


The study

The researchers recruited 242 individuals from an obesity service program at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism (WISDEM) from 2005 through 2016.

They divided the volunteers into two groups—below 60 years of age and those between 60 and 78 years old. They then enrolled each group in WISDEM’s weight-reduction program. At the end of the program, they found the 60-and-over group lost 7.3 percent of their body weight, while the younger cohort lost only 6.9 percent.

In addition, the older group spent less time on the program (33.6 months) than their younger counterparts (41.5 months).


Why the misconception?

If this is the case, why has word gotten around that older overweight people shouldn’t even bother trying to slim down?

Dr. Barber addressed that in the report.

“There are a number of reasons why people may discount weight loss in older people,” he wrote. “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.”

In conclusion, he wrote, “Age should be no barrier to lifestyle management of obesity. Rather than putting up barriers to older people accessing weight loss programs, we should be proactively facilitating that process. To do otherwise would risk further and unnecessary neglect of older people through societal ageist misconceptions.”


Every little bit helps

Obesity has been implicated in more than 50 adverse health conditions, from heart disease and osteoarthritis to diabetes, and depression. And of course, obesity has been found to be a risk factor for developing more severe symptoms associated with COVID-19.

But even a modest amount of weight loss can help with the associated conditions.

For example, another study, published last month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine examined 1,028 people considered to be pre-diabetic. These individuals are at high risk for developing full-blown type 2 diabetes. They found a loss between four and six pounds cut that risk between 40-47 percent over a two-year period.

Losing just 10 pounds has also been shown to lower blood pressure. It also reduces other factors associated with cardiovascular diastase and leads to better brain health. In one study reported by the American Heart Association, the healthiest eaters at age 50 had a nearly 90 percent lower risk of dementia, compared with those head the least healthy diets.

And slight weight loss also benefits the joints. The Arthritis Foundation (AF) reported on a key study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism of overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis. Researchers found that losing one pound of weight resulted in four pounds of pressure being removed from the knees.

“In other words,” the AF wrote, “losing just 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.”


The best method for weight loss at any age

Well, that’s all well and good, you might be saying. But I’ve tried so many diets, and they don’t work. So how do I go about weight loss at my age?

We agree that restrictive diets are difficult to follow. They may result in rapid weight loss, but often the weight comes right back. They also leave those who try them feeling deprived and/or constantly hungry.

The best way, the safest way, and the easiest way is the diet that experts year after year rank No. 1: the Mediterranean diet. It emphasizes

  • fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes
  • low-fat or fat-free dairy products; and fish, poultry, nuts, and seeds
  • limit added sugars, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats

In addition, a study published last month in the journal BMJ found that the Mediterranean diet increased beneficial gut bacteria, which appeared to result in less frailty and better brain function in older adults.

If you’d like more suggestions on weight loss at any age and tips to keep it off, please see us. We can help design an effective weight loss strategy that is also healthy and easy to maintain long term.

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