When we were in our 20s, it seemed as if we could binge on any type of food and drink what we wanted without any negative consequences. By the time we reach our 30s or 40s, however, a single bad meal seems to make our pants fit a little tighter. It can be a frustrating experience, to say the least.
If you feel as if you are running on a hamster wheel as far as your weight loss is concerned, you certainly are not alone. When you look at the science behind weight loss, it actually is harder to lose weight as we get older1. Fortunately, there is a silver lining to that dark cloud because researchers may have just stumbled on one of the biggest reasons why we struggle to lose weight as older individuals.
Researchers at the University of Lyon in France and the Uppsala University in Sweden collaborated in this study and then published it in Natural Medicine1. 54 men and women took part in this study that lasted for an average of 13 years. The fat cells of those individuals were studied and they found there was a decrease in lipid turnover as they got older. Lipid turnover has to do with how quickly fat is removed from the fat cells or stored as fat. Something else that is interesting is that the lipid turnover decrease was true across the board, regardless of how much the individual lost or gained throughout those 13 years.
This is interesting, but what does it have to do with our ability or inability to lose weight? Peter Arner, one of the lead authors of the study and professor at the Department of Medicine and Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet explains it this way: "the results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during aging in a way that is independent of other factors." To put it another way, even if you don't change your lifestyle or diet, it still becomes increasingly difficult to maintain your weight as the years add up and it has to do with the lipid turnover.
You might find this to be rather alarming but Arner says it isn't all bad news. After all, now that they have more knowledge on the subject, new treatments for obesity may not be very far behind. Another one of the studies main authors and senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet, Kirsty Spalding added the following: "Obesity and obesity-related diseases have become a global problem... Understanding lipid dynamics and what regulates the size of the fat mass in humans has never been more relevant."
Until more information is available, the authors talk about other research that suggested an increase in lipid turnover in fat tissues is possible when you exercise more frequently. Perhaps it's time to hit the gym, after all.
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1. Determination of age-related changes in structure and function of skin, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle with computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and positron emission tomography., 2007 Jan;15(1):182-7
2. Adipose lipid turnover and long-term changes in body weight, 09 September 2019