Obesity and the elderly

J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Aug;46(7):533-44. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31825692ce.


The prevalence of obesity is rising progressively, even among older age groups. By the year 2030 to 2035 over 20% of the adult US population and over 25% of the Europeans will be aged 65 years or older. The predicted prevalence of obesity in Americans, 60 years and older was 37% in 2010. The predicted prevalence of obesity in Europe in 2015 varies between 20% and 30% dependent on the model used. This means 20.9 million obese 60 years or older people in the United States in 2010 and 32 million obese elders in 2015 in EU. Although cutoff values of body mass index, waist circumference, and percentages of fat mass have not been defined for the elderly, it is clear from several meta-analyses that mortality and morbidity associated with overweight and obesity only increases at a body mass index >30 kg/m(2). Thus, treatment should only be offered to patients who are obese rather than overweight and who have functional impairments, metabolic complications, or obesity-related diseases, that can benefit from weight loss. The weight loss therapy should minimize muscle and bone loss and vigilance as regards the development of sarcopenic obesity--a combination of an unhealthy excess of body fat with a detrimental loss of muscle and fat-free mass including bone--is important. Lifestyle intervention should be the first step and consists of a diet with a 500 kcal energy deficit and an adequate intake of protein of high biological quality, together with calcium and vitamin D, behavioral therapy, and multicomponent exercise. Multicomponent exercise includes flexibility training, balance training, aerobic exercise, and resistance training. The adherence rate in most studies is around 75%. Knowledge of constraints and modulators of physical inactivity should be of help to engage the elderly in physical activity. The role of pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery in the elderly is largely unknown as in most studies people aged 65 years and older were excluded.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Sarcopenia / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology