Age is not a barrier to losing weight, study finds

The good news is you can successfully lose weight at any age. The bad is you can no longer blame your weight gain on getting older.

A new study out of England found obese patients over age 60 can lose an equivalent amount of weight as younger people using only lifestyle changes. The study, from the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, demonstrates that age is no barrier to losing weight.

ExploreStudy: To live a long life, you should embrace getting older

“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 author Dr Thomas Barber of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick said in a news release published in Science Daily. “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 more than 50 co-morbidities of obesity that can be lessened as we lose weight, including diabetes, psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety, osteoarthritis and other mechanical problems. Obesity is also linked to increased mortality and poor wellbeing.

The researchers said they hope their findings will help to correct prevailing societal misconceptions about the effectiveness of weight loss programs in older people, as well as dispel myths about the potential benefits of older people trying to reduce their weight.

Findings from the retrospective study, based on analysis of patient records from a hospital-based obesity service, were reported in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.

ExplorePhysical activity at any intensity will help you live longer, study finds

For this study, the researchers randomly picked 242 patients being treated for obesity at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at UHCW from 2005 to 2016. The put the patients in two groups — younger than 60 and 60-78 years old — and compared the weight loss they achieved during their time being treated.

The hospital-based WISDEM program used only lifestyle-based changes tailored to each individual patient, focusing on dietary changes, psychological support and encouragement of physical activity. Most of the patients referred to the obesity service were morbidly obese with BMIs typically over 40Kgm-2.

All patients had their body weight measured both before and after lifestyle interventions, and the percentage of weight loss was calculated across both groups.

“When compared, the two groups were equivalent statistically, with those aged 60 years and over on average reducing their body weight by 7.3% compared with a body weight reduction of 6.9% in those aged under 60 years. Both groups spent a similar amount of time within the obesity service, on average 33.6 months for those 60 years and over, and 41.5 months for those younger than 60 years,” the researchers wrote.

Barber added: “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.”

Explore3 benefits of exercising outside in cold weather