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Belief that intentional weight loss is harmful to seniors is unfounded
Date:4/4/2010

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A new study by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is the first to refute the widely held belief that intentional weight loss in older adults leads to increased risk of death.

In fact, the research shows that seniors who intentionally exercised and/or modified their diets to lose weight were half as likely to die within eight years of follow-up as their peers who did not work toward weight loss, said M. Kyla Shea, Ph.D., first author on the study and a research associate in the Department of Internal Medicine, Section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine.

"It was an unusually strong and surprising finding," Shea said. "Our data suggest that people should not be concerned about trying or recommending weight loss to address obesity-related health problems in older adults."

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, is currently available online and is schedule to appear in a future print issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Prior to this study, research that has looked at the association between mortality and weight loss has not factored in the many different potential causes of the weight loss. So, using a more rigorous randomized trial approach, Shea and colleagues sought to prove or disprove the idea that older individuals who actively tried to lose weight increased their risk of death.

The research team re-analyzed data from a study of 318 community-dwelling, older adults over age 60, all with knee arthritis, who were enrolled in a trial assessing the effects of weight loss and/or exercise on physical function in the late 1990s. The initial weight-loss intervention took place over a period of 18 months from 1996 through 1998, during which time the 159 individuals in the intervention groups actively lost an average of 10.5 pounds. The non-intervention group lost an average of 3.1 pounds naturally.

The researchers then ch
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Contact: Jessica Guenzel
jguenzel@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3487
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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