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Posted on 22 Sep 2019 Views 2252 Comments 15

Is age really nothing but a number?

Recently, there has been some conversation over our support forums about ageing and losing weight. In particular, some customers wondered if there is an age limit to actively losing weight, and in particular, losing weight using the Slim & Save programme. So, we thought we’d produce an article to give you facts about this important subject.

Is there an age limit for losing weight?

The simple answer is that ‘age is nothing but a number’ – if you want to actively lose weight, this is entirely your choice and there is no particular age limit. However, there are a few things you may want to consider:

  • Very low calorie diets (VLCDs), or which Slim and Save is an example of, have not been as well studied in older people. Due to the fact that muscle mass is lost as we age, VLCDs should therefore be used with caution in older people, especially those who have not maintained a physically active lifestyle. The National Obesity Forum state in their 2010 position statement that “There is no scientific support for an upper age limit and many obese patients may benefit in later life from weight reduction to relieve osteoarthritis and other co-morbidities” (1). However, the panel also advise that anyone over 70 who is thinking about following a VLCD should do so under medical supervision, seeking the advice of their doctor first.
  • Recent research has actually shown that having a higher body mass index (BMI), e.g. in the overweight category (20-29.9) can actually be protective against diseases such as cancer, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease (2). Other studies suggest that having a high BMI can be protective against falls and the consequences of falling. So rather than trying to get your BMI into the traditionally ‘healthy’ range, try to be happy with achieving a BMI in the ‘overweight’ category.

Are there any unique challenges older people may face?

There are a few issues to consider before you consider trying to lose weight as an older adult:

  • A key concern would be that being on a ‘diet’ (especially in the long term) could mask unintentional weight loss. Certain disease states such as cancer can cause people to lose weight unintentionally – but if you are on a ‘diet’ you would probably not notice the weight coming off quicker and see this as a warning sign to visit your doctor.
  • When you lose weight (at any age), you will lose some muscle in addition to fat. However, if you’re over 65 and actively trying to lose weight, you are likely to lose more muscle that a younger person. In view of this, a VLCD may not be the best option for you. If you do actively ‘diet’, it is important to include some regular strength exercises to try to reduce the amount of muscle you lose (and continue this exercise long term). Having good amounts of muscle as we age is protective against diseases and will help keep you mobile for longer.
  • As we age, we are more likely to experience medical, physical and social causes for becoming ‘undernourished’ – undernutrition is simply an imbalance between what we eat and drink and what our bodies require. You may be thinking – ‘this could never be me…’ but in reality, undernutrition and can set in quickly with the right circumstances. The figure below shows how easy it could be for undernutrition to set in – in this example it shows how this could happen as a result of losing a loved one.

Are there any other considerations?

Annemarie Aburrow RD BSc (Hons) PGDip The Department of Health recommends that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement (containing 10 micrograms) during autumn and winter. We only get small amounts of vitamin D from food – the majority is made by the body by the action of sunlight on the skin during the spring and summer months. Vitamin D helps to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies to promote healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It is a good idea to consider taking vitamin D supplement all year round. This is especially recommended if you don’t get outside much or usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors. If you are following the Simplicity programme, the products are supplemented already to ensure you achieve the recommended level. If you are following the Lifestyle plan, it would be best to include a top up supplement. For more information on vitamin D, please visit the NHS Choices website (3). If you have been diagnosed with osteopaenia or osteoporosis, you will require a higher dose of vitamin D – be sure to speak to your doctor about this.

Written by Annemarie Aburrow RD BSc (Hons) PGDip, Slim & Save Dietitian.

Do you think there is an age when you shouldn't continue to restrict your calories, or are you over 70 years old and following Slim & Save, if so how do you feel about the research above? Leave your comments below to be in with a chance to win a Slim & Save Variety Bar Pack worth £32.99. Winning comment will be chosen on Friday 27th September at 4 pm.

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(1) National Obesity Forum - Very Low Energy Diets
(2) NHS - BMI & Survival In Older People
(3) NHS - Vitamins & Minerals

Comments on Is age really nothing but a number?
Janice Campbell 27/09/2019 17:51
I'm 63 with type 2 diabetes and I struggled walking, I was starting with arthritis in my knees. I'm nearly at my target, 6 more lbs and I will have lost 3 stones. I've done it gradually since May, I even bought an exercise bike and some dumbbells to help me. I've never felt so happy about myself as I do now. I've got a spring in my step, I'm 2 dress sizes smaller, my oedema has gone from my feet and ankles and I've gone down a shoe size. I've started wearing skinny Jeans. for the first time in my life. My blood sugar levels are a constant 5.2 now. I saw the nurse 2 weeks ago and she was really pleased with my results and said the doctor will probably reduce my medication next time. I'm on the maximum to control it at the moment. I honestly believe I have lengthened my mortality rate and if I hadn't done something about it I probably would have had a heart attack before much longer.
Alison Putman 27/09/2019 17:22
Well, I'll be 70 next year, but I'm pretty fit as I walk with my dog every day. I've had no ill effects whatever with S&S and my consultant was happy for me to do it. The low carb/low residue diet has actually helped us to find the source of a problem I've had for a number of years.
This kind of diet won't suit everyone, whatever their age, but it definitely suits me.
Kelly Mcgrory 27/09/2019 05:11
In these modern times yes age is just but a number but diet plays a major part,enjoy food stay active and do as much as you can as you age.Time passes so quickly as it is.Look after your body and your body will look after you.
Denise Ward 26/09/2019 07:13
No matter what age you are, the benefits of loosing weight far outweigh and effects of a vlcd. I’m 56 and although I’m only just over half way through my weight loss journey I look (so I’m told) and feel better and healthier than I have in years
J Graham 26/09/2019 06:46
I think you have to take into account not just physical health but mental health, not wanting or able to do things due to weight or appearance is likely to isolate people both young and old. Which in turn can lead to loneliness and that in itself can be one of the biggest problems of modern society especially among the elderly.
Amy Haines 26/09/2019 05:03
No, I don’t think your age has anything to do with it. Losing weight at any age is hard, and depending on your age you just need to take into account what your body needs at the time to lose weight. Love Slim and Save!!
Wendy Bell 25/09/2019 15:03
Age is no barrier to anything! I always think no matter how old I get I still feel the same 'inside'. There are lots of things I have not done until I was older and what time I wasted. I would say to anyone considering the plan, don't put it off. Being healthier can only open doors to new possibilities, great and small. Every pound loss is like four pounds of pressure of your knees. Mobility will improve, self esteem and confidence. Don't let your age deter you from giving you a better future.
Lisa Porter 25/09/2019 14:46
Age is just a number, I think the impact of being overweight or underweight will be much more detrimental to health, physically and mentally
Katie Brash 24/09/2019 11:53
Age is just a number . If you need to loose weight . You need to loose weight. I encourage everyone no matter what age to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Being healthy in you’re senior years helps maintain your independence. It helps you socialise more by being able to do more. Obesity promotes disease and illness . No one wants to put themselves at a higher risk than they have to. Enjoy every last drop of what life has to offer and saviour each moment.
Lyndsay Walsh 23/09/2019 18:51
Obesity at any age is unhealthy and should be tackled in the best way for that individual.

In my case, I’m a very inactive middle-aged person, but the VLCD way works very well for me, keeping me full of nutrients and vitamins while shedding the excess weight that I really don’t need. A standard diet would more than likely be of a much lower standard nutritionally and I’d be at risk of putting on weight.

This way, I can work on managing my appetite and losing weight - hopefully, something anyone at any age can learn, or relearn!

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