Article image

Why it’s easier to gain weight as you get older

Many people struggle to manage their weight as they get older, and new research from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has discovered that this battle involves age-related changes in the breakdown or storage of fats for energy.

The study revealed that lipid turnover in the fat tissue decreases during the process of aging, making it easier to gain weight

The investigation was focused on fat cells in 54 men and women over the course of 13 years, on average. Regardless of weight loss or weight gain, all of the individuals showed decreases in lipid turnover, which is the rate at which fat in the cells is removed and stored. The subjects who did not compensate for slower lipid turnover through diet and exercise gained weight by an average of 20 percent.

The researchers also analyzed lipid turnover in 41 women who underwent bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, tracking their ability to keep weight off four to seven years after the procedure. The team found that women who had a low rate of lipid turnover before the surgery were able to increase this rate of fat removal and maintain their weight loss. The experts theorize that these women may have had more room to increase their lipid turnover compared to those with a higher rate prior to surgery. 

“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,” said study co-author Professor Peter Arner. “This could open up new ways to treat obesity.”

The analysis supports the findings of previous research that more exercise can speed up lipid turnover in the fat tissue.

“Obesity and obesity-related diseases have become a global problem,” said study co-author Kirsty Spalding. “Understanding lipid dynamics and what regulates the size of the fat mass in humans has never been more relevant.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock/tmcphotos

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day