More protein, less calories key to safe weight loss in elderly: Study

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A high-protein and low-calorie diet helps older adults with obesity lose more weight, maintain more muscle mass, improve bone quality and shed “bad” fat, say researchers.

Doctors have long struggled with how to recommend safe weight loss for seniors, because dropping pounds can lead to muscle and bone loss.

“Doctors hesitate to recommend weight loss for fear that losing muscle and bone could cause mobility issues or increase the risk of injury,” said Kristen Beavers, Assistant Professor at the Wake Forest University in the US.

“This study suggests that a diet high in protein and low in calories can give seniors the health benefits of weight loss while keeping the muscle and bone they need for better quality of life as they age,” added Beavers.

The study was done on nearly 100 adults aged above 65.

The findings, published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, showed that participants lost about 18 pounds, most of it fat (87 per cent), and preserved muscle mass whereas the control group lost about half a pound.

Participants could maintain bone mass even when they lost weight. In fact, trabecular bone score – a measure of bone quality that predicts fracture risk – seemed to improve.

Further, fat was lost in the stomach, hips, thighs and rear, which is important for preventing or controlling cardiometabolic diseases such as diabetes and stroke.

Participants’ score on the Healthy Aging Index, which measures biomarkers that predict mortality and longevity, improved.