Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - HEALTH -

One of the main mes­sages of Bet­ter Brain Food is that weight loss is not good for the el­derly. Be­ing over­weight in early to mid­dle adult­hood car­ries the risk of chronic in­flam­ma­tion and in­sulin re­sis­tance that can dam­age the brain, but the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent for older peo­ple.

Ngaire Hob­bins urges younger peo­ple to do any­thing they can to shed ex­cess weight. She says avoid­ing be­ing seden­tary and boost­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is a pow­er­ful “brain pro­tec­tor” for later life. She also rec­om­mends eat­ing enough pro­tein to main­tain mus­cle while los­ing fat. But for any­one in their 70s and older, she warns that los­ing weight causes loss of mus­cle mass and likely does more harm than good.

She says a slightly heav­ier weight is bet­ter for older peo­ple and this may be re­lated to hor­mones pro­duced by body fat. Changes in body shape – the so-called mid­dle-age spread – can be good for us.

Hob­bins’ view is that in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing, such as the pop­u­lar diet that urges five days a week of nor­mal eat­ing com­bined with two non-con­sec­u­tive days on very low en­ergy in­take, re­quires care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.

For younger peo­ple, re­strict­ing food in­take may re­duce the dam­age caused by eat­ing too much and im­prove fuel sup­ply to the brain. But for older peo­ple, the risk of los­ing mus­cle needs to be con­sid­ered.

She also points out en­ergy re­stric­tion is com­mon through­out his­tory. The dif­fer­ence is that go­ing hun­gry a lit­tle longer used to be just some­thing that hap­pened, not a life­style choice.

She also urges older peo­ple who lose weight un­in­ten­tion­ally to dis­cuss it with a doc­tor.

Af­ter all, she says a lit­tle ex­tra weight later in life is a sign some­one is eat­ing more food and the ex­tra nu­tri­ents have a chance to do good.

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