Stop the diets: Weight gain is better than weight loss in our 60s 61



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For years we have been told that dieting and getting slimmer is what we need to do to be healthy, but could that be incorrect advice for over 60s?

We see ads and articles that tell us to lose weight and slim down, which has led to more and more seniors watching what they eat, and now it seems this is leading to an even bigger medical issue – malnourishment and becoming dangerously underweight.

According to a new study published in The Lancet, the risk of becoming too frail should be a health warning that comes with excessive dieting and weight loss.

Milena Katz, spokeswoman for Dieticians Association of Australia told The New Daily that this can all be prevented and it’s an ongoing problem in her elderly patients.

Around a third of hospitalised Australians 65 and over are malnourished, and one in 10 older people in the wider community are affected.

Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, a geriatrician said, “When our elderly parents lose weight, we tend to say, ‘Oh great, you’re heeding the public health message’, but it’s just a terrible sign and you should never ignore it”.

But it could be the sign of something much more serious, she warned. “If somebody is losing weight after having been overweight their entire life, don’t congratulate them. That’s the time to send them to a doctor”.

You may or may not have heard the term ‘anorexia of ageing’ – where older people feel hungry less often and lose their appetite – but it can also contribute to frailty and malnourishment if weight loss is the result.

So what should you do if you’re losing weight rapidly or fear you may be malnourished or underweight? Firstly, it’s important to understand why you need to have a balanced diet and healthy weight: as you get older, your risk of falls, fractures and osteoporosis and if you’re not providing your body with the nutrients to stay strong, you will increase your risk of complications and hospitalisation. Then, you should prepare healthy meals that aim to boost appetite and muscle mass, and make time for special treat meals/dining out so you can get excited about eating more. Explore a range of fresh foods and don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth once in a while.


Tell us today: are you underweight? Or have you experienced a lack of appetite as you get older? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Unfortunately, the media people who run these stories, advice, … are accountable to no-one. If they turn out to be false stories, poor advice, etc, we don’t have anyone apologising. Make the people who run these articles 100% accountable!

  2. According to all doctors etc, I am overweight. I should be fifteen kilos lighter. I have chronic bronchitis and have been working with a physiologist lately. He says while I could lose a few kilos, I should look at size not weight. If I get a cold it usually turns serious or a chest infection. I have lost 3 kilos in seven weeks. Apparently i should be 58 kilos according to my BMI but my physiologist and doctor say not to go lower than 65. I will be happy with that. That is the first time someone has told me not to lose too much. I have, however lost six inches around my waist and my physiologist says muscle mass is improving greatly and the stronger you are as you age, the better.

    3 REPLY
  3. I agree and it is true of younger people as well this slim fetish. People should not think of weight but of health that is more important!

  4. I need to lose weight.. I need diet plan and avidly read what everyone else says here about their diets

    2 REPLY
    • I just count the calories. I went on a sight that is called fitnesspal and just followed the prompts. Then I do weight training 20 minutes every day which I love and is easy. Ask your doctor.

  5. A little bit of extra weight is ok to ward of diseases & keep the wrinkles from making your face sag to much but to much extra weight is dangerous as we all age it leads to a host of problems, heart attack, stroke, diabetes etc just be sensible eat healthy & do some exercise

  6. Staying healthy becomes more of a balancing act the older you get. Over 70 and any dramatic change in weight or circumstances could be enough to tip you over the edge. Stopping the resulting decline is a very difficult thing.

  7. Interesting that you have run this post about the dangers of sudden weight loss, with an advert for losing one kilo a day right underneath!

  8. My hubby and I have been doing 2days a week (eg tues thurs)very light breaky and fasting till dinner time. We can have water ,tea coffee through the day. other 5 days eating as we normally do. It has been many weeks now and we are losing weight very slowly (which I have been told is best) We are now eating smaller portions as we find it hard trying to eat a large meal. ware both over 70 and feeling so much better. Good luck everyone and don’t lose too much and look awful

  9. Being healthy is more important than being fit or light weight. A little easy exercise and balanced food each day has its own rewards.

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