Weight Loss, Not Weight Gain, A Health Risk For Older Adults

April 09, 1998

Being overweight later in life does not pose a significant risk to your health, according to findings of a comprehensive study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health. On the contrary, it appears that weight loss is far more unhealthy in those 65 and older.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Paula Diehr, professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, studied a group of 4,317 nonsmoking men and women aged 65 to 100 to examine the relationship between body mass index and mortality rates in seniors. All participants were involved in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a population-based, longitudinal study of older adults designed to identify risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Persons who were wheelchair-bound or receiving hospice treatment, radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer were excluded from the study.

"We found no correlation between increased body mass index and mortality among study participants," said Diehr. "Instead, it appears that significant, unintended weight loss should be of primary concern for seniors."

Information on study participants was gathered over a five-year period during home interviews, clinical evaluations and other resources. After controlling for a number of clinical variables including hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, researchers found that women with a body mass index of 20 or lower had a higher mortality rate than others. (Body mass index is defined by weight in pounds divided by squared height in inches multiplied by 704.5. A BMI of 20 or lower is equivalent to a 5-foot-5 inch woman weighing 120 pounds or less.) Long-term weight change among study participants showed that subjects who lost 10 percent or more of their weight since age 50 had a relatively high death rate -- 15.9 percent for women and 30.3 percent for men over the five-year period studied. Among this group, weight loss averaged 26 pounds for women and 29 pounds for men.

"While research has found a link between high body weight and increased mortality for middle-aged people, this finding doesn't appear to hold true for seniors, " Diehr said. "However, there is a need for more studies that follow older adults for longer than five years, and that examine the effect of weight on people's overall health, as well as on longevity."

Additional investigators include Dr. David Siscovick, University of Washington; Dr. Diane Bild, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; Dr. Tamara Harris, National Institute on Aging; Dr. Andrew Duxbury, University of California at Davis School of Medicine; and Dr. Michelle Rossi, University of Pittsburgh.

The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

University of Washington

Related Weight Loss Articles from Brightsurf:

Weight loss shouldn't be the goal of PE
For adults, the goal of exercise is often to shed some pounds, but new research from the University of Georgia suggests the objective should be different for kids.

How long should you fast for weight loss?
Two daily fasting diets, also known as time-restricted feeding diets, are effective for weight loss, according to a new study.

Green tea may help with weight loss efforts
In an analysis published in Phytotherapy Research of randomized controlled trials, individuals who consumed green tea experienced a significant decline in body weight and body mass index.

Changing weight-loss strategies, attempts
The proportion of adults who tried to lose weight in the previous year increased from 1999 to 2016 but the findings of this observational study suggest the results may have been unsatisfactory.

Quality of life changes after weight loss
Obesity increases a number of adverse health consequences including reduced health-related quality of life.

Weight loss medicines underutilized by veterans
Despite the availability of new weight management medications and several clinical guidelines recommending their use as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for obesity, a new study has found that their use is extremely low (about one percent) among eligible Veterans.

Is the most effective weight-loss strategy really that hard?
Dietary self-monitoring is the best predictor of weight-loss success. But the practice is viewed as so unpleasant and time-consuming, many would-be weight-losers won't adopt it.

Study: Faster weight loss no better than slow weight loss for health benefits
Losing weight slowly or quickly won't tip the scale in your favor when it comes to overall health, according to new research.

Mindfulness training may help support weight loss
Mindfulness training may improve the effectiveness of intensive weight management programs, according to a small study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Does weight loss before surgery provide benefits?
For obese and overweight patients, it is common for various surgical procedures to be deferred until they have lost weight through diet and exercise.

Read More: Weight Loss News and Weight Loss Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.