Research has long shown that being overweight can significantly shorten lifespan — now new findings indicate that shedding pounds over a certain age can result in the same outcome.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Network, found those who lost weight over the age of 65 were a third more likely to die within an average of four years.
Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia examined nearly 17,000 adults aged 65 and older, curious to learn more about a relatively untouched area. The clinical significance of weight change has not been well documented in a population of healthy older individuals free of diagnosed life-limiting illnesses.
The team said that their findings are likely not based on weight loss itself, but the cause of the weight loss that puts them at a higher likelihood of death.
The study included 16,703 Australians aged 70 and older, and 2,411 American participants aged 65 and older without a history of cardiovascular disease, dementia, disability or chronic illness. Body weight and waist circumference were measured annually over four years. The latter may be a better measure than body weight to estimate all-cause mortality, CVD mortality, and premature mortality because it captures the negative outcomes of abdominal obesity which may be connected with an enhanced release of inflammatory mediators, researchers said.
Researchers noted that weight gain, on the other hand, was not associated with an increased risk of an early death.
Results differed based on gender
Male participants who lost more than 10 percent of their body weight were almost 290 percent more likely to die early than men with consistent weight.
Female participants who lost more than 10 percent of their body weight were found to have a 114 percent higher likelihood of mortality.
Compared to men with stable weight, those who lost five to 10 percent of their body weight had a 33 percent higher risk of an early death from all causes.
Women who lost the same range of weight had a 26 percent higher chance of untimely death.
Consistent with both genders, those who were obese were at a higher risk of an early death if they lost more than five percent of their body weight.
Weight loss was also linked to an increased risk of cancer, with more than 10 percent weight loss in men indicating they were 2.5 times more likely to die from cancer and in women more than 10 percent weight loss indicated 1.78 times higher change of dying from cancer.
The study did not track changes in diet or exercise of participants.