Modern conveniences can make things a little too easy for us. For example, it’s all too easy to grab a heavily processed snack instead of preparing a healthy one. Over time, these conveniences may add up to a heavier weight, especially when you add in the natural slowing down of bodily processes that occurs with aging. The impact from these factors is affecting more and more adults in the US. The CDC reports obesity prevalence rates to be:
- 40.0% among young adults aged 20 to 39 years
- 44.8% among middle-aged adults aged 40 to 59 years
- 42.8% among adults aged 60 and older
There are over 50 obesity-related conditions. Included in that list are heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of what the CDC calls preventable, premature death. Furthermore, the CDC estimates the US medical cost of obesity for 2008 was $147 billion; noting the medical cost for the medically obese patient was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Additionally, obesity can actually speed up normal processes of aging such as atherosclerosis, a condition involving arterial plaque buildup inside arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Dr. Thomas Barber, associate professor at the Warwick Medical School in Coventry, England, told TODAY:
“Older people who are also obese often suffer from a metabolic ‘double-whammy,’ with effects from both the normal aging process and obesity. For this reason, effective weight loss in older people with obesity should be prioritized rather than ignored.”
Despite this, there is a misconception that senior adults are less able to lose weight. There is a “perceived lack of motivation” as well as a belief that seniors may be “too frail” to exercise. Doctors may not send older patients to weight-loss programs and if referred, they may be reluctant to go, thinking that the programs are not suitable for them.
However, there is research which shows otherwise.
Dr. Barber was lead author of a retrospective study conducted in the UK to evaluate the effects of age on weight loss using a lifestyle intervention program within a hospital-based obesity service. The subjects were 242 patients, aged 18-78, with morbid obesity who received only lifestyle weight loss interventions.
They were divided into 2 groups by age at the time of referral – group 1 for those less than 60 years of age, and group 2 for those 60 and older.
Primary outcomes measured were percentage weight loss (%WL) and percentage reduction in body mass index (% rBMI). Overall, the patients were in treatment for almost 39 months and the time was similar between the 2 groups. The rates of weight loss and BMI reduction were very similar between the 2 groups.
Study Group 1
Study Group 2
|Age range at time of referral||
60 years or older
|BMI at baseline||
|Confirmed diagnosis of diabetes mellitus (DM)||
|% weight loss||
|% BMI loss||
Researchers concluded that there is “no significant differences in weight loss between these two groups.
Contrary to the misconceptions outlined above, the present study demonstrates that older age does not associate with diminished ability of patients to lose appreciable weight through a structured hospital‐ and lifestyle‐based weight loss programme.”
In his interview with TODAY, Dr. Barber noted that while this study did take place in a hospital setting, adopting a healthy lifestyle does not require a doctor or hospital team – anyone can do it.
Researchers do, however, note that there are “many potential barriers to effective obesity management in a hospital‐based service for patients of older age.” Misconceptions, as discussed above, may make referrals less likely to be given or followed through. There may also be economic barriers that restrict resources for some patients. These barriers may be amplified for a patient when frailty, physical and mental impairments and multiple other co‐morbidities also co‐exist.
Another group of researchers conducted a systematic review study evaluating barriers to behavioral change and predictors of adherence to lifestyle intervention programs for adults with obesity. They note that other potential obstacles include: environmental, societal and social pressures; lack of time; health and physical limitations; negative thoughts/moods; gaps in knowledge/awareness; and lack of enjoyment of exercise.
They found older age to be among the most conspicuous predictors of adherence. Other predictors include: early weight loss success, lower baseline body mass index (BMI), better baseline mood, and being male. They suggest these issues should be addressed early in treatment and the patient’s intervention plan customized to boost adherence.
Dr. Barber reports that regardless of age, the basic formula for weight-loss is the same for us all:
- Eat a varied, nutritious diet including whole-foods, plenty of vegetables and natural fiber.
- Sit less and move more.
- Get enough sleep
This is backed up by a 2016 systemic review of over a dozen randomized controlled trials (RCTs) which concluded: “Overall lifestyle interventions with combined diet and exercise components achieved the greatest weight loss.”
Losing weight at any age doesn’t have to involve extreme measures. However, the benefits can be enormous. Talk to your chiropractor about weight and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health. Nutrition, hydration, active movement, rest, and chiropractic care are all ways to help you add years to your life and life to your years.
TODAY ‘It is never too late’: Successful weight loss not affected by age, study finds” https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/it-is-never-too-late-successful-weight-loss-not-affected-by-age-study-finds/ar-BB1bQVno
Leyden E, Hanson P, Halder L, et al. Older age does not influence the success of weight loss through the implementation of lifestyle modification. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2021;94:204–209. https://doi.org/10.1111/ cen.14354
Hassan Y, Head V, Jacob D, Bachmann MO, Diu S, Ford J. Lifestyle interventions for weight loss in adults with severe obesity: a systematic review. Clin Obes. 2016 Dec;6(6):395-403. doi: 10.1111/cob.12161. Epub 2016 Oct 27. PMID: 27788558.
Centers for Disease Control “Adult Obesity Facts” https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html accessed 2/4/2021
Burgess E, Hassmén P, Pumpa KL. Determinants of adherence to lifestyle intervention in adults with obesity: a systematic review. Clin Obes. 2017 Jun;7(3):123-135. doi: 10.1111/cob.12183. Epub 2017 Mar 15. PMID: 28296261.