In a new study, researchers found that obese patients over the age of 60 can lose an equivalent amount of weight as younger people using only lifestyle changes.
The finding demonstrates that age is no barrier to losing weight.
The researchers hope that their findings will help to correct societal misconceptions about the effectiveness of weight loss programs in older people, as well as dispel myths about the potential benefits of older people trying to reduce their weight.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Warwick and elsewhere.
In the study, the team selected 242 obese people and compared two groups (those aged under 60 years and those aged between 60 and 78 years) for the weight loss that they achieved during their time within the service.
All people had their body weight measured both before and after lifestyle interventions, and the percentage reduction in body weight calculated across both groups.
The team found that when compared, the two groups were equivalent statistically, with those aged 60 years and over on average reducing their body weight by 7.3% compared with a bodyweight reduction of 6.9% in those aged under 60 years.
Both groups spent a similar amount of time within the obesity service, on average 33.6 months for those 60 years and over, and 41.5 months for those younger than 60 years.
The hospital-based program used only lifestyle-based changes tailored to each individual patient, focusing on dietary changes, psychological support, and encouragement of physical activity.
The team says there are more than 50 comorbidities of obesity that can be lessened as people lose weight, including diabetes, psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety, osteoarthritis, and other mechanical problems.
Obesity is also linked to increased mortality and poor wellbeing.
Weight loss is important at any age, but as people get older they are more likely to develop the weight-related co-morbidities of obesity.
Age should be no barrier to the lifestyle management of obesity. Rather than putting up barriers to older people accessing weight loss programs, scientists should be proactively facilitating that process.
One author of the study is Dr. Thomas Barber of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick.
The study is published in Clinical Endocrinology.
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