Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Losing weight kills older folks

I came across this  which may be of interest to some of you. I have taken the basic premise of the article as it gets a bit technical.

Adiponectin, a protein produced by fat cells, may play a pivotal and counterintuitive role in cardiovascular health for older people according to a new study.

As people lose weight the concentration level of adiponectin in the bloodstream increases. In previous studies, high adiponectin concentration has been associated with lower occurrence of diabetes and cholesterol abnormalities. The new study reveals, however, that despite the known association with blood sugar and cholesterol parameters, elevated adiponectin levels may lead to heightened risk of heart attack in older adults.

This study examined a sample of 1,386 participants of the population-based Cardiovascular Health Study from 1992 to 2001. Participants consisted of adults aged 65 to 100 years and were recruited from four field centers in the United States. Subjects underwent physical examinations and laboratory testing. Of these participants, 604 experienced a heart disease event. Those with the highest levels of adiponectin were most likely to suffer a heart attack.

The kicker is this: Weight loss causes adiponectin to rise.

Given that repeated analysis of the huge volume of NHANES research found a similar increase in death with weight loss even when people's underlying health conditions were screened out, I doubt that underlying conditions are the explanation for the correlation here. Indeed, there may very well be a reason why our bodies start to pack on weight at middle age and that reason may be that the fat we pack on helps keep us alive.

It is worth noting, again, that despite all the demonization of obesity in the media, research about people who lived to be 100 years old or older found that fully one third of them were obese in their 50s.

So what does this latest finding mean for you? My guess is that it means that the best time to work on your weight is long before you hit your 60s. From then on your focus should be on blood sugar control and that your dieting efforts should be directed to maintaining your current weight rather than losing weight.

Certainly the body helps us out on this one. It gets tougher and tougher to drop a pound with each passing year and just maintaining our weight may take more self-restraint than we expended dropping 30 lbs in our 30s.

Vanity fanned by a media culture that makes people believe that we all should have bodies like liposuctioned, breast-augmented 20-year-old actresses makes it very hard to accept the idea that a healthy older person is a plumper older person.

Perhaps the next radical step the Baby Boom generation will have to take is to publicly challenge the fat-phobic media culture and start demanding that health authorities tell the truth about the relationship of weight and health in older people. That truth is simple: LOSING WEIGHT KILLS OLDER FOLKS.

Ignore it at your peril.



Jeni said...

Son of a gun! You just gave me a darned good reason NOT to try a diet!

Cicero Sings said...

Now I have justification for my matronly figure!! Grannies should be soft and cuddly!!! (though I'm not a granny).