The prevalence of obesity in older adults is increasing. This warrants action, since it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and is associated with frailty and reduced quality of life. Dieting to help older obese adults lose weight is, however, controversial. In addition to losing fat mass during a weight loss program, these older adults often lose skeletal muscle mass. This might increase the dieters’ risk of sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass and function), and, thereby, increase their risk of falls and affect their ability to perform common daily activities, such as sitting down or getting up out of a chair, carrying groceries, or going for a walk. As with involuntary weight loss, it is crucial to preserve skeletal muscle mass in obese older adults, while they are following a weight loss program.
In collaboration with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, researchers from Danone Nutricia Research tested the hypothesis that a vitamin D and leucine enriched whey protein nutritional supplement could help prevent muscle decline in obese older adults following a weight loss program including a low calorie diet and resistance training. After 13 weeks, only the obese older adults using this specifically designed supplement maintained their skeletal muscle mass, while both groups lost a similar amount of weight.
These interesting results were published in the February 2015 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). The importance of these findings and the efforts to find a solution for the growing community of older obese adults that are searching for a healthy weight loss result were recognized in the same journal by the release of an editorial entitled “Slimming down in old age” and an accompanying press release.