A few extra pounds can haunt you through­out your life, but why is it worth stock­ing up on in old age?

Weight fluc­tu­ates through­out life. And in old age you should treat it espe­cial­ly care­ful­ly.

Fat is needed after 70 years

Weight loss is some­thing that many adults strive for. How­ev­er Research shows that peo­ple who car­ry a few extra pounds after age 70 tend to live longer than peo­ple who have no fat reserves. Old­er peo­ple who do not have con­di­tions such as dia­betes or osteoarthri­tis, which are typ­i­cal­ly caused by obe­si­ty, may ben­e­fit from car­ry­ing a lit­tle extra weight.

In one pub­lished study, over­weight par­tic­i­pants at age 70 had a 13% low­er risk of death than nor­mal-weight par­tic­i­pants.

Over­all health depends not only on the amount of fat we store, but also on how well the fat tis­sue func­tions. New research from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Copen­hagen has found that although fat tis­sue los­es impor­tant func­tions as we age, reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activ­i­ty can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

Excess pounds have been shown to increase the risk of chron­ic dis­eases such as heart dis­ease and ear­ly-onset dia­betes, but they can actu­al­ly give old­er adults extra reserves to recov­er from stres­sors such as surgery or pneu­mo­nia.

Weight loss as you age

How­ev­er, unin­ten­tion­al weight loss is a com­mon prob­lem in old age. You begin to lose lean mass, mus­cle and bone tis­sue. Already at the age of 30, lean body mass begins to decline by a lit­tle more than 230 g each year. You may not notice the change because lean tis­sue is replaced by fat­ty tis­sue.

How men and women lose weight

Men and women can lose weight dif­fer­ent­ly. Men tend to gain weight until age 55 and then slow­ly begin to lose it in lat­er years. This may be due to less testos­terone pro­duc­tion after this age. On the oth­er hand, women usu­al­ly stop gain­ing weight when they reach 65 years of age.

After age 65, it is usu­al­ly nor­mal to lose between 100 and 230 grams of body weight each year. Unin­ten­tion­al weight loss can be dan­ger­ous if you lose 5% or more of your body weight every 6 to 12 months.

Health problems due to weight loss

Unin­ten­tion­al­ly los­ing too much weight as you age can lead to:

  • Decreased qual­i­ty of life
  • Increased rates of death (mor­tal­i­ty) and dis­ease (mor­bid­i­ty)
  • Reduc­ing phys­i­cal activ­i­ty that pro­motes health
  • Increased risk of health-relat­ed acci­dents such as bone frac­tures
  • Increased risk of hos­pi­tal admis­sion

You can stay very slim or have no fat at all (which is also not rec­om­mend­ed even at a young age) until you are 60–70 years old, and then relax a lit­tle and accu­mu­late a few kg of fat tis­sue with­in rea­son­able lim­its.