Seniors are different when it comes to weight loss


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Diet and exercise — that’s the weight loss prescription that works for most people. But seniors are different, says Ellen Evans, UGA associate professor in the department of kinesiology, and the director for the Center for Physical Activity and Health.

She told the Athens Banner-Herald, “Older adults have complications such as medications and illnesses. It’s not like taking a college student who’s relatively healthy but overweight and telling them to diet and exercise. The prescriptions delivered to both of them about activity and eating have to be tailored.”

Evans co-leads the Obesity and Exercise Team through the UGA Obesity Initiative at the University of Georgia with Mary Ann Johnson, a professor in Foods and Nutrition in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Through the Obesity Initiative, Johnson collaborates with local, state and federal agencies to improve the health and well-being of older adults.

“The highest prevalence of obesity in the U.S. is among the older adult population,” Johnson said. “They also bear the most burden from obesity in terms of obesity-related disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, functional limitations and other health problems.” 

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society titled “Strategies to improve diet in older adults,” Johnson wrote that in the U.S. in 2009-10, the prevalence of obesity was highest among men ages 40 to 59 years old (about 37.2 percent) and women ages 60 years old and older (about 42.3 percent), according to the World Health Organization.

Adults ages 65 years old and older in the U.S. are reported to have a 27 percent prevalence of diabetes and account for 42 percent of all cases of diabetes. Obesity and diabetes also are seen as risk factors for nursing home admission, particularly for obesity among those ages 65 years old and older.

“We know obesity is one of the main determinants of nursing home admissions, because when a person is obese as an older adult, they don’t have the muscle mass to carry the load, and they become sedentary,” Evans said. “Family members of older adults will then have trouble caring for their loved ones if they are obese because they may not be able to move them around to care for them.”

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