Eat less or gain weight as you age

Linda F. Benedict, Roy, Heli J.

News Release Distributed 09/24/09

Here’s some more depressing news about losing weight – the older you get, the less you can eat.

Heli Roy, LSU AgCenter nutritionist, says one reason people aren’t successful with weight-loss programs is as they age, they have to gear down the quantity and richness of the foods they eat. So even though they may be eating less calorie-dense food – and less food – their bodies need fewer and fewer calories.

“One of the effects of age on metabolism is a decline in resting energy expenditure (REE). Because metabolic rate accounts for roughly two-thirds of total energy expenditure, a decline in REE must be offset by an equal decline in energy intake,” Roy said.

This means people need fewer calories as they age. In addition, physically inactive individuals lose about one half of one percent of lean muscle mass every year between ages 25 and 60.

“This might not seem like much, but it can add up, and the result is a decrease in lean body mass over time and an increase in fatness most of us see as we age,” Roy said. “From age 60 on, the rate of lean body mass loss doubles to about 1 percent. It doubles again at each decade past age 60.”

There’s just no doubt that it’s difficult to lose weight.

“In study after study, most people gain all of the weight back and even more after a weight-loss diet. Instead of trying to reach an ideal weight, which is impossible for most people, physicians recommend a 10 percent weight loss. This amount of weight loss can bring significant benefits and reduction of chronic disease risk,” Roy said.

The only weapon at our disposal to combat this formula for failure at weight loss is physical activity. As we age, we should plan on being more physically active, if we plan on eating the same amount of food.

“Increased physical activity, and particularly weight training, can build lean body mass. Increased aerobic activity – walking, running, swimming – can reduce body fat. So it is important to engage in both types of physical activity – anaerobic, or body building, to build lean body mass and aerobic activity to reduce body fat,” Roy said.

The LSU AgCenter has educational information on how to eat more healthfully. Go to and search for Smart Choices.

Also, the LSU AgCenter chancellor, Bill Richardson, is writing a personal blog about his efforts to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. Go to and click on Chancellor’s Challenge III on the front page.

Linda Foster Benedict

9/25/2009 12:15:02 AM
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