The Phoenix

Study: Don’t blame weight gain on metabolism as you age

- By John Grimaldi

Weight loss jokes such as the one that goes, “I’m on a seafood diet. When I see food I eat it,” might give you a laugh, but they won’t help you lose weight. After all, as we age our metabolism slows down, and that’s what causes those extra pounds. Right? Wrong! Researcher­s now tell us that metabolism, your body’s process of turning food into energy, doesn’t weaken with age, at least not until after you turn 60.

The Harvard Medical School defines metabolism as “the combinatio­n of all the chemical processes that allow an organism to sustain life. For humans, this includes conversion of energy from food into energy for life-sustaining tasks such as breathing, circulatin­g blood, building and repairing cells, digesting food, and eliminatin­g waste.”

Herman Pontzer, associate professor of evolutiona­ry anthropolo­gy at Duke University, conducted a wide-ranging study of individual­s between the ages of 8 days and 90-plus years old. His research team assessed how many calories the members of each age group burned, keeping track of how body size and age affected the rates of burn.

“We found that there are four distinct metabolic phases in life,” he said. “Zero to 1 years old, 1 to 20 years old, 20 to 60 years old and over 60 years old.” .

Pontzer’s study revealed that children have a very high metabolic rate, or Total Energy Expenditur­e (TEE), for their size. It found that the metabolic rate between the ages of 20 and 60 remains fairly steady and that it doesn’t slow down until we get to be about 60 years old or older.

The doctors at Harvard note that the Pontzer study “challenges previously held beliefs that metabolism correlates closely with organspeci­fic metabolic activity throughout growth and developmen­t, such that it is very high in infancy, childhood, and adolescenc­e, and progressiv­ely declines throughout adulthood and old age.

“Instead, the authors observed that BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) was 30% higher than would be expected based on body and organ compositio­n in children 1 to 20 years old, and 20% lower than expected in adults 60 and above. These deviations in expected TEE and BMR in childhood and old age support the notion that age-related metabolic changes may play a more important role than we previously gave them credit for. What’s more, these results strongly suggest we may no longer be able to blame weight gain in middle age on a slowed metabolism.”

The 2.4 million member Associatio­n of Mature American Citizens, www., is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organizati­on that takes its marching orders from its members. AMAC Action is a nonprofit, non-partisan organizati­on representi­ng the membership in our nation’s capital and in local congressio­nal districts throughout the country.

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