Therapeutic and lifestyle approaches to obesity in older persons

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2019 Jan;22(1):30-36. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000520.


Purpose of review: Obesity rates worldwide continue to increase and will disproportionately affect older adults because of population aging. This review highlights recent progress pertaining to therapeutic approaches to obesity in older adults.

Recent findings: Caloric restriction alone improves physical function and quality of life in older adults with obesity but is associated with loss of lean mass and increases fracture risk. Adding progressive resistance training to caloric restriction attenuates loss of muscle and bone mass and increasing protein intake enhances this effect. Adding aerobic endurance training to caloric restriction further improves cardiorespiratory fitness but adding both aerobic endurance training and resistance training to caloric restriction results in the greatest improvement in overall physical function while still preserving lean mass. Future promising therapeutic interventions include testosterone, myostatin inhibitors, and bariatric surgery, but there are few studies specific to obese older adults.

Summary: The optimal approach toward obesity in older persons is lifestyle intervention incorporating caloric restriction and exercise consisting of aerobic endurance training and resistance training. Maintenance of adequate protein intake, calcium, and vitamin D is advisable. There is insufficient evidence specific to obese older adults to recommend testosterone or bariatric surgery at this time. Myostatin inhibitors may become a future treatment, and clinical trials are ongoing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Elder Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Endurance Training
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Healthy Lifestyle*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Physical Functional Performance
  • Resistance Training
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Vitamin D