Obesity early in life leads to physical disabilities

Carrying extra weight earlier in life increases the risk of developing problems with mobility in old age, even if the weight is eventually lost.

The research came out of the Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

“In both men and women, being overweight or obese put them at greater risk of developing mobility limitations in old age, and the longer they had been overweight or obese, the greater the risk,” said lead investigator Denise Houston, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor of gerontology at the School of Medicine and an expert on aging and nutrition. “We also found that, if you were of normal weight in old age but had previously been overweight or obese, you were at greater risk for mobility limitations.”

Houston added that dropping weight later in life can lead to problems with mobility because weight loss later in life is usually involuntary and the result of an underlying chronic condition.

The researchers defined mobility limitation as difficulty walking a quarter-mile or climbing 10 steps. They analyzed information from 2,845 participants who were on average 74 years old.

Using participants’ body mass index (BMI), a measurement equal to a person’s weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, at different age intervals, the researchers found that women who were overweight or obese (BMI of 25 or greater) from their mid-20s to their 70s were nearly three times more likely to develop mobility limitations than women who were normal weight throughout. The risk for men was slightly less ? they were about 1.6 times more likely to develop mobility limitations, according to the study.

The study also found that women who were obese (BMI of 30 or greater) at age 50, but not in their 70s, were 2.7 times more likely to develop mobility limitations compared to women who were not obese throughout. Men who were obese at 50, but not in their 70s, were 1.8 times more likely to develop mobility limitations than men who never carried the extra weight.

Carrying extra weight can strain joints, hinder exercise and lead to chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, that are directly related to the development of mobility limitations, Houston said.

The data suggest that interventions to prevent overweight and obesity in young and middle-aged adults may be useful in preventing or delaying the onset of mobility limitations later in life.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Wake Forest University Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, appears in the April 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, USA



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