Why people gain weight as they get older

September 16, 2019 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Why people gain weight as they get older

Many people struggle to keep their weight in check as they get older. Now new research conducted at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has uncovered why: Lipid turnover in fat tissue decreases during aging and makes it easier to gain weight, even if we don't eat more or exercise less than before.

The scientists studied the fat cells in 54 men and women over an average period of 13 years. In that time, all subjects, regardless of whether they gained or lost weight, showed decreases in lipid turnover in the fat tissue, which is the rate at which lipid (or fat) in fat cells is removed and stored. Those who didn't compensate for that by eating fewer calories gained weight by an average of 20 percent.

The researchers also examined fat turnover in 41 women who underwent bariatric surgery. They wanted to see how the fat turnover rate affected the ability for these women to keep the weight off four to seven years after surgery. (Bariatric surgery is performed on the stomach or intestines to promote weight loss.

Only those women who had a low fat turnover rate before surgery managed to increase their lipid turnover and maintain their weight loss. The researchers believe these people may have had more room to increase their lipid turnover than those who already had a high level pre-surgery.

The results indicate that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during aging in a way that is independent of other factors.

Prior studies have shown that one way to speed up fat turnover in the fat cells is to exercise more. This new research supports that notion and also indicates that the long-term result of weight-loss surgery would improve if combined with increased physical activity.

Source: Nature Medicine, online September 9, 2019.

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