From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published December 10, 2012 09:47 AM

New Emphasis on Keeping the Weight Down for Older Women

Being too overweight is known to be detrimental to one's health. But for postmenopausal women, keeping the weight down, and not letting it come back up is just as critical. A new study From Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC found that gaining weight back AFTER an intentional weight loss is associated with negative long-term effects for cardio and metabolic (CM) risk factors for older women. This study puts a new emphasis on the importance of the hardest part of weight loss, keeping the weight down.


Led by Daniel Beavers, Ph.D., and Kristen Beavers, Ph.D., the researchers intended to look at how weight regain affects health risk in postmenopausal women. In particular, they looked at CM risk factors which indicate the body's overall risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These include blood pressure, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose, and insulin.

"In this group of women, weight loss and maintaining that loss offers the most health benefit, but therein lies the problem," Daniel Beavers said. "For most people, weight regain after intentional weight loss is an expected occurrence, and the long-term health ramifications of weight regain in older adults are not well understood."

"What we found was that all CM risk factors are improved with weight loss, which is not surprising, but most regressed back to their baseline values 12 months later, especially for women who were classified as 'regainers,'" Kristen Beavers said. "For women who had regained weight in the year after their weight loss, several risk factors were actually worse than before they lost the weight."

Over the course of 5-months, 112 obese, older women, averaging 58 years old went through a weight loss intervention. This was followed up by a 12-month non-intervention period. Body weight and CM factors were analyzed before and after the intervention, and then 6 and 12 months after.

The women lost an average of 25 pounds each. After the post-weight loss invtervention, two-thirds of the women regained approximately 70 percent of their lost weight. This shows how common it is for weight loss to be reversed.

"Our data suggest that for postmenopausal women, even partial weight regain following intentional weight loss is associated with increased cardiometabolic risk. Conversely, maintenance of or continued weight loss is associated with sustained improvement in the cardiometabolic profile," Beavers said. "The take away message for overweight, older women is to approach weight loss as a permanent lifestyle change, with weight maintenance just as important as weight loss."

This study has been published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences

Overweight Woman image via Shutterstock

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