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Why People Gain Weight as They Get Older

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Many people struggle to keep their weight in check as they get older. Now new research at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has uncovered why that is: Lipid turnover in the fat tissue decreases during ageing and makes it easier to gain weight, even if we don’t eat more or exercise less than before. The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

The scientists studied the fat cells in 54 men and women over an average period of 13 years. In that time, all subjects, regardless of whether they gained or lost weight, showed decreases in lipid turnover in the fat tissue, that is the rate at which lipid (or fat) in the fat cells is removed and stored. Those who didn’t compensate for that by eating less calories gained weight by an average of 20 percent, according to the study which was done in collaboration with researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden and University of Lyon in France.

The researchers also examined lipid turnover in 41 women who underwent bariatric surgery and how the lipid turnover rate affected their ability to keep the weight off four to seven years after surgery. The result showed that only those who had a low rate before the surgery managed to increase their lipid turnover and maintain their weight loss. The researchers believe these people may have had more room to increase their lipid turnover than those who already had a high-level pre-surgery.

“The results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during ageing in a way that is independent of other factors,” says Peter Arner, professor at the Department of Medicine in Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet and one of the study’s main authors. “This could open up new ways to treat obesity.”

In the perennial battle of will over weight, consumers were finally offered an effective means of weight reduction around the turn of the 20th century – tapeworms! Fortunately, this “easily swallowed,” “sanitized,” and “jar packed” product proved ineffective.

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Prior studies have shown that one way to speed up the lipid turnover in the fat tissue is to exercise more. This new research supports that notion and further indicates that the long-term result of weight-loss surgery would improve if combined with increased physical activity.

“Obesity and obesity-related diseases have become a global problem,” says Kirsty Spalding, senior researcher at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Karolinska Institutet and another of the study’s main authors. “Understanding lipid dynamics and what regulates the size of the fat mass in humans has never been more relevant.”

The study was financed by grants from the Stockholm County Council, the Swedish Research Council, the Strategic Research Program for Diabetes at Karolinska Institutet, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Swedish Diabetes Foundation, Karolinska Institutet-Astra Zeneca Integrated Cardiometabolic Center, the Vallee Foundation, the Swedish Society of Medicine, the Erling-Persson Family foundation and IXXI.

Contacts and sources:
Karolinska Institutet

Citation: : “Adipose lipid turnover and long term changes in body weight,” Peter Arner, Samuel Bernard, Lena Appelsved, Keng-Yeh Fu, Daniel Andersson, Mehran Salehpour, Anders Thorell, Mikael Rydén, Kirsty Spalding, Nature Medicine, online September 9, 2019, doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0565-5


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    Total 5 comments
    • DK

      Theory falls flat with my Nan Ethel who died in 2006, I think more in the way of fast or slow metabolism and contrary to common sense those with a slow one tend to be thin.

      • 2QIK4U

        The thyroid gland in your throat is what regulates weight in humans. Which is the fast metabolism DK speaks of, Lipid turnover is a result from the thyroid. Thyroiditis

    • Anonymous

      #1. Not too long ago, people had gardens and yards, grew their own organic food, and weren’t pressured to have 2-3 jobs sitting all day and barely making ends meet. Now they’re stressed out to pay the rent, feed the kids, pay for the vehicles, cell phones, internet, etc.– all the modern day ” luxuries”, so obviously, dear writers and scientists, they’re under a lot of stress and pressure full time. And we all know that stress makes you fat. Lack of sleep makes you fat and diabetic. Some people work night shifts–the worst!
      #2. Having 2-3 jobs and a family doesn’t give people enough time to prepare home-made meals and stop buying the tv dinners or eat out food that makes you bloated and tired. So obviously people are not getting good nourishment from the food and store a lot of fat.
      #3. Having to work more means feeling tired after work and less or no time for the gym.
      #4. Living in bad economy forces the majority of people to buy cheap food and especially comfort food. That too makes you fat.

      Nowadays, everything makes you fat. Even the water you drink–it’s full of plastic and chemicals.

      I have watched a documentary about these 2 brothers in Cuba that were ranchers. Boy, they had to work in the field most of the time and didn’t have one gram of fat on their body. Compare this to our sedentary lifestyle and full time stress…

      So I don’t care about what the fake scientists in Sweden are telling us now. They have a new theory every year. If people lived happy lives and had enough time to exercise and cook healthy meals and go on vacation more frequently, there wouldn’t be a fat epidemic.

      • 2QIK4U

        Stress doesn’t make you fat. Stress makes you smoke more if you smoke. Drink more if you drink and eat more if all you do is eat. Psychological comfort intake

    • Slimey

      Take it all down to just BAD genes. You are either lucky or you are not. :wink:

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