Weight loss may mean a risk of death for older adults, study shows

The study found that weight loss may put people over age 65 at risk.

Weight loss may mean a risk of death for older adults, study shows


It is not healthy to lose weight, no matter how much people might like it.

A new study has shown that weight loss in older people is linked to early death and other life-limiting conditions.

According to the JAMA Network Open study, weight gain was not associated with mortality.

According to Dr. Monira, a senior researcher in public health at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and a clinical epidemiologist, medical professionals are always concerned about older people suffering from health issues losing weight. However, researchers still don't fully understand the effects of weight loss on healthy older adults.

Nearly 17,000 Australian adults aged at least 70 years were included in the study, and over 2,000 Americans who were 65 or older were also included. According to the study, everyone who took part in the study was weighed at an annual checkup between 2010-2014.

Hussain stated, "Our study showed that even a 5% weight reduction increases mortality risk, especially in older men."

She added that weight gain in healthy older adults did not correlate with age.

According to Perri Halperin (clinical nutrition director at Mount Sinai Health System), the association was seen across all starting weights. This means that people who have been diagnosed as obese were also at increased risk of losing weight. Halperin was not part of the study.

Other health issues

The study was able account for any health problems at the beginning. Hussain stated that it did not include people with conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, or physical disabilities.

Halperin stated in an email that it also excluded people who had recently been hospitalized. This is because weight loss is often a result of acute conditions.

Hussain said that the study was not able to determine if weight loss was intentional or unintentional.

Haperin stated that no questions were asked regarding changes in activity and diet quality between baseline and subsequent study visits. Therefore, we don't know how these factors might have affected the results.

How weight loss can pose a risk

Because weight loss can indicate underlying problems, it could be a risk factor in increasing mortality.

A warning sign of conditions such as cancer or dementia may be weight loss. Hussain stated that it can often be linked to a reduced appetite due to inflammation and hormones.

Halperin stated that older adults can lose weight if they have chronic conditions. These conditions may impact their appetite, metabolism, and eating habits. Weight can also be affected by mobility issues and side effects of medication.

Halperin stated that weight changes can indicate concerns about lifestyle.

Social isolation is a major factor in weight loss among older adults. She also mentioned financial constraints, pain and discomfort as concerns.

Halperin stated that it is important to remember that correlation is not causation in studies such as these. The weight loss was associated with mortality. However, that does not mean it caused the death of the person.

She stated in an email that 'It is also important to note that the opposite cannot possibly be extrapolated or recommended - ie, gaining weight would certainly not decrease your mortality risk.' "As always, talk about weight changes with your doctor.

Halperin stated that older adults should monitor their weight changes.

"If they notice a drop in their weight (weight loss), or if pants are looser fitting (decreased waist circumference)," she said, "bring it up to their doctor for possible further screening and testing."

She said that the same advice applies to the medical community. Doctors and health professionals need to be aware that weight changes require further investigation.