In a groundbreaking study, scientists have found that older women who maintain a stable weight are significantly more likely to live to be 90, 95 and even 100 years old. The study, which examined data from more than 54,000 women over the age of 60, found that losing weight in older age could potentially work against the goal of achieving exceptional longevity.
Exceptional longevity refers to the phenomenon of living well beyond the average lifespan of a given population. This is often observed in people who live to 100 years or more, known as centenarians. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices and a positive psychological attitude are thought to contribute to achieving exceptional longevity. The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences
The study, conducted as part of the Women’s Health Initiative, analyzed data from women who maintained a stable weight for three years and those who lost at least 5% of their weight. During the follow-up period, more than 30,000 women, or 56% of the participants, lived to be 90 years of age or older.
The results of the study showed that older women with stable weight were 1.2 to 2 times more likely to achieve exceptional longevity compared to those who lost 5% or more of their weight. The findings held true for women of different weight categories, including overweight, obese and normal weight.
Interestingly, unintentional weight loss was also found to be associated with reduced life expectancy. Women who unintentionally lost weight were 51% less likely to live to age 90. In this group, illness, stress and poor appetite were among the factors that contributed to weight loss.
On the other hand, weight gain of 5% or more was also not associated with exceptional longevity. The study emphasizes the importance of maintaining a stable weight for older women, whether it is weight loss or weight gain.
Aladdin Shadiab, associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity at the University of California, San Diego and first author of the study, emphasized the significance of the findings. He stated, “Our results confirm that stable weight is a goal for longevity in older women.” Shadiab also emphasized that unintentional weight loss in aging women should be viewed as a warning sign of poor health and shortened life expectancy.
Although unintentional weight loss is common in the elderly, it does not always indicate an underlying medical cause. Therefore, aging women should consult a physician if weight loss is recommended to improve health and quality of life.