Weight loss may not always be a cause for celebration, especially for older adults. A new study published in JAMA Network Open reveals that weight loss among older adults is linked to early mortality and life-limiting conditions, regardless of their starting weight. The study, which involved nearly 17,000 adults aged 70 years and older in Australia and over 2,000 adults aged 65 years and older in the US, found that even a 5% weight loss could increase mortality risk, particularly in older men. Surprisingly, weight gain did not show any association with mortality. According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Monira Hussain, healthcare providers have long been worried about older people losing weight due to underlying health problems, but this study sheds light on the impact of weight change on healthy older adults. Perri Halperin, a clinical nutrition director who was not involved in the study, highlighted that the findings should encourage healthcare providers to monitor weight changes in older adults more closely


The study has some limitations that may affect the interpretation of the findings, as noted by Perri Halperin, a clinical nutrition director at the Mount Sinai Health System. The study did not differentiate between intentional and unintentional weight loss and did not assess changes in activity level or diet quality between the baseline and follow-up visits. Additionally, the study excluded participants who had recent hospitalizations, which is crucial since hospitalization often leads to acute weight loss due to illness or medical interventions. Halperin emphasized the need for further research to clarify the mechanisms behind the association between weight loss and mortality in older adults


Weight loss can serve as a red flag for underlying health issues that can increase mortality risk, according to the lead author of the study, Dr. Monira Hussain. Chronic conditions such as cancer and dementia, as well as inflammation and hormonal changes, can trigger weight loss in older adults. In addition, mobility problems, medication side effects, social isolation, financial constraints, and pain and discomfort can all contribute to weight loss in this population. However, correlation does not imply causation, cautioned Perri Halperin, a clinical nutrition director. While the study found an association between weight loss and mortality, it does not necessarily mean that weight loss causes death. It is crucial for older adults to monitor their weight changes and discuss them with their healthcare providers, who should conduct further investigations if necessary. The study highlights the need for doctors and other medical professionals to pay close attention to changes in weight in older adults and to address any underlying health issues promptly.


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