Weight Loss not harmful for elderly: study

Dieting to lose weight may not help older overweight adults increase their life spans, but losing a little weight on purpose does not seem to cause any harm, a well, tells a recent study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The latest study gains importance when one sees it in context of previous studies, which had raised concerns that losing weight might be harmful to older adults, as a few studies had linked dropping weight to a higher rate of death.

According to the latest study author Stephen Kritchevsky, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the general connection between dieting to lose weight to a higher rate of death, primarily emanates from a general sense in geriatrics… that weight loss is a bad thing. And hence there is a little bit of an enigma on ‘whether it’s a wise thing to go Dieting to lose weight in old age or not to ask an overweight older adult to lose weight’.

Countering the above bias, Mr. Kritchevsky adds that research linking older adults and weight loss to the higher rates of death may well be due to the fact that unintentional weight loss in the elderly is often due to an underlying illness, which at times turn fatal.

How the study was conducted:

For the study, the researchers looked at data from a past study of overweight and obese adults with high blood pressure, some of whom had received training and counseling to help them lose weight and keep it off. Participants in the weight-loss group lost close to 10 pounds, on average, while those who were told to modify the amount or salt in their diets or to not change their diets at all lost about two pounds.

12 years later, the researchers used national death records to figure out which of the original participants were still alive. By then they would have been in their late 70s, on average.

Out of about 600 people who took part in the said weight loss study, split between the weight-loss and non-weight-loss programs, about 50 died in each group — constituting 16 percent in each group.

The researchers then took into account factors which can result in death, such as age, race and smoking. The researchers found that, the participants assigned to lose weight weren’t any more or less likely to die during the follow-up than those not in the weight-loss group.

Further analyzing the data separately from the weight-loss assignment group, the team found that this group appeared to have a lower risk of death than those who hadn’t tried to drop any extra pounds. The researchers didn’t include this aspect in their final report, due to the need for more data to make firm conclusions.

The study finally concludes that weight loss is potentially beneficial regardless of a person’s age, if the person is overweight or obese. Further adding that, even if losing weight doesn’t add years to an elderly person’s life, it can have many other health benefits, such as easing disease risks, making activities like walking up the stairs easier, and reducing osteoarthritis pain.