Weight Regained in Later Years Has More Fat
Study: If Postmenopausal Women Lose Weight, They're Better Off if They Keep It Off
Was It Aging or Weight Gain?
Because her study did not have a comparison group of postmenopausal women who had not lost and regained weight, Nicklas says, she and her co-authors can’t be certain that the shift in the women's lean-tissue-to-fat composition wasn’t simply due to age. She says she’s seeking funding to study that question.
A 2009 paper on body composition changes in men and women 70-79 compared people who had lost at least 3% of their weight and then regained it with those whose weight remained stable. This weight cycling “may contribute to a net loss of lean mass in older men,” the authors concluded, calling for more research.
“We are still trying to figure out what are the natural changes over time of body composition,” Jung Sun Lee, PhD, author of the 2009 report and an assistant professor of gerontology at the University of Georgia, tells WebMD.
The information is especially important because heavy people are living longer than ever before, Lee says, and there are no clear guidelines for treating their obesity.
Some people say it’s best to leave it alone. “There are a few very vocal geriatricians who are totally against an older person losing weight,” Nicklas notes.
But despite the great likelihood that people will gain it back and the suggestion that it will have an unfavorable impact on their lean-tissue-to-fat composition, “I think there are huge benefits to losing weight,” she says. When older obese people deliberately slim down, their osteoarthritis improves, Nicklas says. They can get up out of chairs and climb stairs more easily. Even if they eventually regain all of the weight, she says, it usually takes a few years to do it.
Nicklas and her co-authors published their findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.