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Abstract

Background

In association with the rapid lengthening of life expectancy and the ever-rising prevalence of obesity, many studies explored in the elderly the phenomenon usually defined as the obesity paradox.

Objective and methods

This article is a narrative overview of seventy-two papers (1999–2019) that investigated the obesity paradox during the aging process. Twenty-nine documents are examined more in detail.

Results

The majority of studies suggesting the existence of an obesity paradox have evaluated just BMI as an index of obesity. Some aspects are often not assessed or are underestimated, in particular body composition and visceral adiposity, sarcopenic obesity, and cardio fitness. Many studies support that central fat and relative loss of fat-free mass may become relatively more important than BMI in determining the health risk associated with obesity in older ages.

Conclusion

Inaccurate assessments may lead to a systematic underestimation of the impact of obesity on morbidity and premature mortality and, consequently, to clinical behaviors that are not respectful of the health of elderly patients. Knowledge of the changes in body composition and fat distribution will help to better understand the relationship between obesity, morbidity, and mortality in the elderly.

Level of evidence

Level V, narrative overview.

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Bosello, O., Vanzo, A. Obesity paradox and aging. Eat Weight Disord 26, 27–35 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-019-00815-4

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