According to a new study by the University of Warwick's NHS Trust and Coventry and Warwickshire University Hospitals (UHCW) that shows that age is not a barrier, obese patients over the age of 60 can lose as much weight as younger people who just make lifestyle changes apply to lose.
The researchers hope their results will help correct the prevailing societal misconceptions about the effectiveness of weight loss programs in the elderly and dispel myths about the potential benefits of older people trying to lose weight.
The results are based on an analysis of patient records from a hospital obesity service and are published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.
This retrospective study was conducted at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (WISDEM) at the UHCW. The researchers randomly selected 242 patients who participated in the WISDEM-based obesity service between 2005 and 2016, and compared two groups (under 60 and between 60 and 78) on the weight loss they achieved during their time within the year Service.
In all patients, body weight was measured both before and after lifestyle interventions and coordinated as part of the WISDEM-based obesity service, and the percentage reduction in body weight was calculated for both groups. In comparison, the two groups were statistically equivalent, with people 60 years and older reducing their body weight by an average of 7.3%, compared with a 6.9% reduction in body weight for those under 60 years of age. Both groups spent similar time in the obesity service, averaging 33.6 months for those aged 60 and over and 41.5 months for those under 60.
The hospital program only used lifestyle changes tailored to each individual patient, with an emphasis on dietary changes, psychological support, and encouraging physical activity. Most of the patients referred to the obesity service were morbidly obese with BMIs typically greater than 40 kgm-2.
There are more than 50 comorbidities of obesity that can be reduced while losing weight, including diabetes, psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety, osteoarthritis, and other mechanical problems. Obesity is also linked to increased mortality and poor well-being.
The lead author Dr. Thomas Barber of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick said, "Weight loss is important at any age, but as we get older we are more likely to develop the weight-related comorbidities of obesity. Many of them are similar to the effects of aging, therefore one could argue that the relevance of weight loss increases with age and we should take this into account.
"There are a number of reasons why people may devalue weight loss in the elderly. These include an 'ageistic' perspective that weight loss is not relevant to the elderly and misconceptions about the decreased ability of the elderly to lose weight and gain weight through diet changes may feel that hospital obesity services are not for them. Service providers and policy makers should recognize the importance of weight loss in the obese elderly in maintaining health and wellbeing, as well as facilitating healthy aging contribute to clinical decisions regarding the implementation of lifestyle management for older people.
"Age should not be an obstacle to lifestyle management for obesity. Instead of imposing obstacles on older people who have access to weight loss programs, we should proactively facilitate this process. Otherwise there is a risk of further and unnecessary neglect of older people through social age-related misunderstandings . ""