Older Women Should Think Again about Dieting

Weight loss through dieting can be actually worse for your health in the longer term. At this time of year when many folks resolve to change their body shape and take on drastic lifestyle changes in order to shed pounds, there is new research that shows the body’s reaction to be one of regaining the lost body mass as harmful fat rather than useful muscle. Despite our best intentions our bodies put the weight back on but in a  the worst possible form, fat.

Older Women Think Twice about Dieting

 Body Composition After Weight Loss

The new study published in the American Journal of Nutrition proves that females over fifty who have lost weight will almost inevitably pick it up again as fat. The lead gerontologist summarises the new findings very bluntly.  “The body composition of some of the women was worse than before their weight loss” said Dr. Barbara Nicklas who led the team that analyzed data from seventy-eight post menopausal women with an average age of 58 years. She went on to say:

“When older women lose weight, they also lose mean mass. Most women will gain a lot of weight back, but the majority of the weight regained is fat.”

The women in the study had recently lost around 12% of their body weight through dieting and the make up of their changed body mass, the ratio of muscle and fat, was both recorded at the end of the dieting period and measured again after six months then one year. During that year the women were on a normal none diet lifestyle. The particular focus of the study was on women who regained weight and what was the nature of that ‘new’ body mass. At the 6 month point 68% had put on some body mass, while after a year 76% were heavier. 24%, 16 women held or improved on their weight loss figure.

For those who put weight back on 3 in 4 had more than 4 pounds and this number rose to almost  9 out of 10 by the end of the year. Of the heavier women 75% had put on more than 4 lbs and this had gone up to 85% after the year. The weight regaining group were then evaluated for the nature of their body mass changes relative to the starting points.

Lose Muscle Gain Fat:

[box type=”important”]The bad news for dieters is that they are shedding muscle and fat in the proportions of one to two, but regaining fat more than muscle in the proportion of four to one. [/box]

It is almost psychological, when we lose something we go about finding it again. Unfortunately for older women it is the loss of muscle that can be hazardous to their health. Women, after the menopause, are already suffering from hormonal changes and bone thinning.

Losing Muscle Mass

So the very last thing they need is to lose muscle tissue as well. The ill effects outweigh any benefits from actual weight loss. The message for the older woman who wants to improve her body shape is to take one of the two alternative routes, exercise and vegetarianism or surgery. For the latter the outcomes are certainly more predictable.

[box type=”important”]It is vital that if you do lose weight in later life that you keep it off through extensive lifestyle adjustment. Basically lots more exercise and real food, mostly plants.[/box]


Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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