Why Do We Gain Weight the Older We Get?

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Working can have a negative impact on diet and physical activity, while maternity can increase the BMI for women.

Obesity

Today overweightness and obesity are real public health problems. The number of obesity cases worldwide has almost tripled since 2015. By 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Among them, more than 650 million were obese. The disease is associated with many complications. It is believed to increase the risk of uterine, ovarian and breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and colon and gallbladder cancer in both sexes. Obese people are also more likely to have diabetes, liver, kidney or breathing problems, high blood pressure, headaches, lower back pain, low self-esteem, depression, stomach pain, fatigue, urinary incontinence, excessive sweating, menstrual irregularities and polycystic ovaries in women.

This is why many researchers are working to understand how obesity develop. According to two studies published simultaneously in the Adiposity Review, growing up can lead to significant weight gain. In fact, the transition from school to higher education and then to work can lead to harmful eating and less physical activity, while in women, motherhood can be associated with a significant increase in BMI.

In the first meta-analysis, researchers from the University of Cambridge (UK) reviewed several studies on the transition from secondary school to higher education or to work and how this affects weight, nutrition and physical activity. They found that leaving school was associated with a reduction of 7 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. The reduction was greater for men than for women (-16.4 minutes per day compared with -6.7 minutes per day). The change was even greater when the participants were attending a university. The overall level of moderate to vigorous physical activity decreased by 11.4 minutes per day.

Some of the reviewed studies also showed weight gain at the end of high school. Finally, two studies have pointed out that the quality of the diet decreases at the end of high school and another study has shown the same phenomenon at the end of the students’ school years.

“Children have a relatively sheltered environment where healthy eating and exercise are encouraged in school, but these data suggest that pressure from college, employment and childcare is causing behavioral changes that are unlikely to be healthy in the long run,” says Dr. Eleanor Winpenny of Cambridge University. This is a very important time for people when they could develop healthy or unhealthy habits that will continue into adulthood. If we can identify the factors in our adult lives that cause unhealthy behavior, we can work to change them,” she says.

In their second study, the researchers analyzed the effects of parenthood on weight, diet and physical activity. When they analyzed six studies, they found that having a child increased weight gain in women by 17%. Over five or six years, a childless woman gained only 2.8 points on her BMI while a new mother gained 3.3. But whether or not they have a child or not does not change anything for men. In addition, most studies on physical activity have shown a greater decline in physical activity among people with children.

The BMI increases in young women, especially in women who become mothers. However, new parents may be particularly willing to change their behavior, as this may also have a positive effect on their children rather than just improving their own health.

“Interventions aimed at increasing parents’ activity levels and improving their diet can have an overall benefit. We need to look at the messages health professionals are sending to new parents, because previous studies have shown that new mothers are very confused about acceptable weight gain during pregnancy,” said Dr Kirsten Corder, who also participated in the study.

Whether they start to work or not, whether they have children or not, it seems that aging is inevitably linked to weight gain. It’s about the reduced rate of fat turnover in adipose tissue, i.e. the rate at which fat is removed or stored in adipose tissue. If this reduction is not compensated for by limiting calorie intake, it can lead to weight gain of 20%.

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