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

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.

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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?