As the number of older adults increases rapidly, the national epidemic of obesity is also affecting our aging population. This is particularly concerning given the numerous health risks and increased costs associated with this condition. Weight management is extremely important for older adults given the risks associated with abdominal adiposity, which is a typical fat redistribution during aging, and the prevalence of comorbid conditions in this age group. However, approaches to weight loss must be considered critically given the dangers of sarcopenia (a condition that occurs when muscle mass and quality are lost), the increased risk of hip fracture with weight loss, and the association between reduced mortality and increased BMI in older adults. This overview highlights the challenges and implications of measuring adiposity in older adults and the dangers and benefits of weight loss in this population and provides an overview of the new Medicare Obesity Benefit. In addition, we provide a summary of outcomes from successful weight loss interventions for older adults and discuss implications for advancing clinical practice.
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The study was funded in part by the Department of Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, and the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging. Support was also provided by the Dartmouth Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U48DP005018 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this journal article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Compliance with Ethics Guidelines
Conflict of Interest
Lydia E. Gill declares that she has no conflict of interest.
Stephen Bartels receives funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (K12 HS0217695 [AHRQ], NIMH: T32 MH073553, R01 MH078052, R01 MH089811; R24 MH102794 CDC U48DP005018), CDC, AHRQ, and HRSA.
John Batsis receives funding from Health Resources Services Administration (UB4HP19206-01-00) for medical geriatric teaching, the Junior Faculty Career Development Award, the Department of Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging. He also has received a new investigator award from the American Geriatrics Society/Merck and has consulted on a legal review for Dinse, Knapp, and McAndrew LLC.
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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
This article is part of the Topical Collection on The Obesity Epidemic: Causes and Consequences