Newsflash: Cure for Fatness in the Elderly Discovered!

Apr 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm
And get on the damn Wii Fit.
And get on the damn Wii Fit.'s diet and exercise. What a shock, right?

Researchers at Washington University published their findings in the March 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. They placed 100 obese seniors between the ages of 65 and 85 into four groups: one on a reduced-calorie diet, one in which participants increased their exercise, one in which participants did both and a fourth in which they did neither.

All participants in the first three groups saw some weight loss. But, in a stunning development, the group that combined diet and exercise lost more weight.

They also made strides in improving their baseline physical fitness, as measured by the Physical Performance Test, a standardized measure of the ability to walk 50 feet, put on and take off a coat, stand from a chair and navigate stairs. The diet group improved 10 percent from their baselines, the exercise group improved 8 percent and the combiners improved 17 percent.

Older adults, who are fattening up at the same alarming rates as the rest of us, face the same demons when they carry extra chub around: heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. But because they're aging and losing mobility, being overweight is even riskier for them and places them at higher risk of being unable to care for themselves.

"In older adults, obesity exacerbates declines in physical performance and leads to frailty, impaired quality of life and increases in nursing home admissions," says principal investigator Dennis T. Villareal, adjunct associate professor of medicine at Wash. U., in a press release.

There is some controversy over older people bothering to lose weight at all, the release notes. First off, often it's too late for Grandma by the time she's 70 and obese, to switch course suddenly and become a marathon runner. Also, when older people lose fat, they lose muscle and bone, too, which are important for mobility. But the study found that the diet-and-exercise group lost the least muscle and bone.

So even if Great Uncle Bart isn't planning on competing in an Ironman competition any time soon, it makes a lot of sense for him to watch what he eats and get a move on.