Intentional weight loss in older adults: useful or wasting disease generating strategy?

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 May;16(3):284-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32835f503f.


Purpose of review: Strategies for weight management in older adults remain controversial as overweight may protect them against mortality whereas weight loss may have harmful effects by promoting sarcopenia and bone loss. It has been suggested that weight management for obese older adults should focus more on maintaining weight and improving physical function than promoting weight loss. This review aims to specify whether intentional weight loss in older adults is a useful or a wasting disease generating strategy.

Recent findings: Recent randomized controlled studies have shown that a supervised, moderate caloric restriction coupled with regular exercise (both aerobic and resistance) in obese older adults do not increase mortality risk and may conversely reduce insulin resistance, metabolic complications, and disabilities without exacerbating lean mass and bone mineral density loss.

Summary: In obese older adults, moderate weight loss may have beneficial effects on comorbidities, functional performances, and quality of life provided that regular physical activity can be associated. An individual approach considering life expectancy, chronic comorbidities, functional status, personal motivation, and social support should be preferred. More research is needed to define the circumstances in which cautious dietary restrictions are reasonably justified in older adults. In any case, in the oldest (≥80 years) as in frail individuals, it seems reasonable to abstain from recommending weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bone Density
  • Caloric Restriction / methods*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Life Expectancy
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Micronutrients / deficiency
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Wasting Syndrome / diet therapy
  • Wasting Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Weight Loss*


  • Micronutrients