As you get older, losing weight becomes more complicated, mainly because dropping kilos can lead to muscle and bone loss, which can lead to loss of strength and increase the risk of falls.
But a new US study has found that following a high-protein low-calorie diet in your 60s and beyond can lead to weight loss, while maintaining muscle mass and bone quality.
The study, published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, analysed data from a randomised control trial. The research results showed that a high-protein low-calorie diet helps older adults with obesity lose more weight, maintain more muscle mass and improve bone quality.
“Doctors hesitate to recommend weight loss for fear that losing muscle and bone could cause mobility issues or increase the risk of injury,” Kristen Beavers, a researcher from Wake Forest University in North Carolina, said.
“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.”
The researchers aimed to investigate the risk of doing nothing by comparing results from a weight loss group versus a weight stability group.
For the study, 96 adults aged 65-plus were randomly assigned to one of two groups: a six-month low-calorie meal plan that included more than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, plus adequate calcium and vitamin D; or a weight stability control group targeting 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
The research results found participants lost about 8.2 kilograms, most of it fat (87 per cent), and preserved muscle mass. The control group lost about 0.2 kilograms.
Fat was lost in the stomach, hips, thighs and rear, which is important for preventing or controlling disease such as diabetes and stroke. Even when participants lost weight, they maintained bone mass. In fact, trabecular bone score, a measure of bone texture, seemed to improve.
Meanwhile, participants’ score on the US Healthy Ageing Index, which measures biomarkers that predict mortality and longevity, improved by 0.75 points.
The Australian government recommends men aged 51-70 eat 64 grams of protein per day, while women in the same age bracket should consume 46g per day. However, recent studies have suggest that these figures could be too low for some older adults who need to consume more protein as they age to help keep muscles strong.
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