Weight loss among older healthy people linked to life-limiting conditions, study finds

It is known that older people with health problems lose weight. However, little is known about the effects of weight loss in healthy older adults.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image
Representational image

kazuma seki/iStock  

Many people experience a gradual but progressive loss of weight as they age. It is known that older people with health problems lose weight. However, little is known about the effects of weight loss in healthy older adults.

A new study has now attempted to comprehend the latter. Furthermore, the findings suggest that weight loss in older people may be associated with premature death as well as life-limiting conditions. It could be due to a variety of factors, including the underlying disease, which healthy older adults may be unaware of.

“To our knowledge, the clinical significance of weight change has not been well documented in a population of relatively healthy older individuals free of diagnosed life-limiting illnesses,” reads the research paper published in the journal JAMA Network Open

This study is led by Dr. Monira Hussain Monash from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The doctors examined 17,000 adults in Australia who were nearly 70 years old, as well as over 2,000 adults over 65 years of age in the United States. According to the study, the weight of the participants was measured and recorded at their annual checkups between 2010 and 2014. According to CNN, the study excluded participants who had cardiovascular disease, dementia, physical disabilities, or chronic illness. Older individuals who had recently been hospitalized were also excluded from this study. 

The results showed that weight loss of over 10 percent could increase death risk in both men and women. The study says particularly older healthy males are more at risk.

“This cohort study of healthy older adults suggests that weight loss was associated with an increase in all-cause and cause-specific mortality, including an increased risk of cancer, CVD, and other life-limiting conditions. Physicians should be aware of the significance of weight loss, especially among older men,” added the paper. 

In contrast to weight loss, the weight increase showed no link to life-limiting conditions among the healthy older individuals, who were part of this study. 

Weight loss is important to investigate because it can reveal underlying issues, and early intervention could reduce the risk of untimely morality

"Further research will be needed to determine more precisely the association between weight loss and the onset of fatal diseases and whether clinical or laboratory investigations can identify individuals for whom early intervention may be effective," concluded the paper.

Study abstract:

The association between weight change and subsequent cause-specific mortality among older adults is not well described. The significance of changes in waist circumference (WC) has also not been compared with weight change for this purpose. To examine the associations of changes in body weight and WC with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. This cohort study is a post hoc analysis of data from the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) randomized clinical trial, which recruited participants between March 1, 2010, and December 31, 2014. The study included community-based older adults (16 703 Australian participants aged ≥70 years and 2411 US participants aged ≥65 years) without evident cardiovascular disease (CVD), dementia, physical disability, or life-limiting chronic illness. Data analysis was performed from April to September 2022.

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