For the study, recently published in the Journal of Aging Research, the authors used data from about 1,350 Jewish people between the ages of 75 and 94 who were part of a national survey conducted between 1989 and 1992. Twenty years after the data was collected, the researchers followed up to see who had died. Over the course of the two decades, all but 59 participants died.
One geriatrics expert in the United States was fairly circumspect about the findings. "There are far too many unanswered questions to make any definite conclusions about weight and death in very old adults," said Dr. Evelyn Granieri, director of the division of geriatrics at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Hospital in New York City.
"The investigators only saw the people in the study once, then looked 20 years later to see when, but not how, they died," noted Granieri. "They did not do a medical history or examination or evaluate any of the subjects' medical conditions or their medications. They did not determine if the weight the people had was new or if it was their usual weight. It may have been that the thin people were sick and their being thin was a result of chronic or acute illness."
Granieri said people who are 85 or older should not feel compelled to change their weight. "You have been successful at reaching an age that the majority of people will not attain, so whatever the other factors that may have allowed you to reach that age, most likely, any change in weight will not change your mortality," she said.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has tips on aging well.
SOURCES: Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, Ph.D., director, Herczeg Institute on Aging, and professor and chair, department of health promotion, School of Public Health,
All rights reserved