Is it Possible to Predict Weight Loss in Obese Older Adults?

May 12, 2014
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Since obesity is more likely to occur as patients age, researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London recently set out to determine whether they could predict which obese older adults would be more likely to lose weight successfully.

Since obesity is more likely to occur as patients age, researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London recently set out to determine whether they could predict which obese older adults would be more likely to lose weight successfully.

For their study published in the May 2014 issue of Obesity Facts, Sarah E. Jackson, PhD, and her 2 co-authors enrolled older adults in the US and UK who were aged 52 years or older and had a body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2. The researchers examined the participants’ weight change between 2004 and 2008 to determine whether age, sex, ethnicity, marital status, education, or BMI predicted weight loss of at least 5%.

Approximately 17% of the subjects from the UK and 29% of those from the US lost more than 5% of their baseline weight. According to the study authors, women and participants whose BMI exceeded 35 kg/m2 were more likely to lose weight than others. Within the US, those who were married were less likely to lose weight.

Americans tended to lose more weight than their British counterparts, and the researchers attributed this finding to the US diet industry, which creates pressure to lose weight. They also indicated that older Americans tend to be more health conscious and less likely to smoke or drink than older Britons.

Although the researchers initially hypothesized that socioeconomic class, married status, and higher education would be associated with at least 5% weight loss, that was not the case in their study. Thus, they relented that few demographic variables consistently predict clinically meaningful weight loss in community-dwelling older adults.