Older women who lost at least 5% of their body weight, especially those who experienced unintentional weight loss, had lower odds of living up to 90 years and beyond, a study found.
Women over 60 who sustained a stable weight were 1.2 to 2 times more likely to achieve exceptional longevity — the age of 90, 95, or 100 — than those who experienced a weight loss of 5% or more, according to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
A research team led by the University of California San Diego scientists analyzed data from 54,437 women who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a study investigating chronic diseases in postmenopausal women. Throughout the follow-up period of three years, 56% of the participants survived to the age of 90 or beyond.
Women who lost at least 5% of their body weight were 51% less likely to reach the age of 90. Unintentional weight loss was more strongly associated with lower survival odds than intentional weight loss.
As obesity is common among older American women, unintentional weight loss could be a warning sign of ill health and a predictor of decreased longevity, says first author Aladdin H. Shadyab, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego.
However, gaining 5% or more weight was not associated with exceptional longevity compared to stable weight. Researchers note that the pattern of results was similar among normal-weight, overweight, and obese women.
For overweight people, losing weight has many health benefits, including improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also reduces risks of obesity-related chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Although the findings suggest that general weight loss recommendations may not help increase longevity in older women, the authors say it is important to heed medical advice if moderate weight loss is recommended to improve their health or quality of life.
- University of California San Diego. Maintaining Stable Weight Increases Longevity Among Older Women.
- National Library of Medicine. Association of Later-Life Weight Changes With Survival to Ages 90, 95, and 100: The Women's Health Initiative.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Losing Weight.