Weight loss in early adulthood delays biological ageing

Stephen Padilla
16 Mar 2023
Weight loss in early adulthood delays biological ageing

Weight gain among adults appears to speed up a person’s biological age, with a recent study showing the associations of maximal overweight, nonobese to obese, and stable obesity across adulthood with accelerated biological ageing. On the other hand, weight loss from young to middle adulthood tends to slow down biological ageing.

“Our findings underscore the importance of weight management throughout the life course, especially in early life,” the researchers said. “With the growing ageing population, monitoring weight fluctuation could help identify the population at high risk of accelerated ageing and, eventually, postpone ageing-related health complications.”

Data from 5,553 adults aged 40‒84 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999‒2010 were used in this study.

The researchers defined weight change patterns (ie, stable normal, maximal overweight, obese to nonobese, nonobese to obese, and stable obese) and absolute weight change across adulthood (ie, from young to middle adulthood, young to late adulthood, and middle to late adulthood). They also calculated a biological ageing measure (ie, phenotypic age acceleration [PhenoAgeAccel]) at late adulthood.

Finally, survey analysis procedures with the survey weights were carried out.

Maximal overweight, nonobese to obese, and stable obesity across adulthood consistently correlated with increased PhenoAgeAccel. [Am J Clin Nutr 2023;117:1-11]

Specifically, higher PhenoAgeAccel values were noted in participants who had maximal overweight (1.71; p<0.001), moved from being nonobese to obese (3.62; p<0.001), and maintained obesity (6.61; p<0.001) from young to middle adulthood compared with participants who had stable normal weight.

Notably, weight loss of ≥2.5 kg exhibited a marginal association with lower PhenoAgeAccel (p=0.054) compared to absolute weight loss or gain of <2.5 kg from young to middle adulthood. In contrast, a transition from obese to nonobese from middle to late adulthood correlated with an increased PhenoAgeAccel (p<0.001).

Weight loss

“An important finding of this study was that absolute weight change in the three life periods differed in their associations with biological ageing acceleration,” the researchers said. “We observed that from young to middle adulthood, biological ageing slowed down for participants who lost weight and accelerated for those who gained weight.”

“However, weight loss during the other two life periods was no longer associated with PhenoAgeAccel and biological age acceleration (BioAgeAccel), which is consistent with previous reports of telomere length,” they noted. [Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 2021;12650988; Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013;21:2582-2588; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18:816-820]

The researchers also explained that weight loss in young adulthood tended to achieve improvements in body composition and was less likely to affect the risks of major chronic diseases. [JAMA 2017;318:255-269; Children (Basel) 2018;5:77]

Conversely, weight loss in late life tends to be unintentional and indicative of lean mass loss, which then contributes to frailty and a higher risk of morbidity and mortality. [Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:872-878; Rev Endocr Metab Disord 2020;21:355-368; Rev Endocr Metab Disord 2020;21:355-368]

“Similar mechanisms could help explain our observation that weight loss from obese to nonobese during young or middle to late adulthood was associated with higher PhenoAgeAccel and BioAgeAccel,” the researchers said. “There have been a growing number of research on antiageing interventions or therapies in young adulthood.” [J Clin Med 2020;9:1598; Mech Ageing Dev 2010;131:165-167]

“Building on our findings, we suggest that weight loss intervention among adults with obesity should be implemented in early adulthood to slow ageing and achieve maximal effectiveness,” they added.

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