Optimising your weight: essential factor in ageing well

Ageing Well - Food - Posted onSunday 5 July 2020

What factors promote weight loss or gain?

Causes of weight gain

We become overweight when our nutritional intake exceeds the energy we expend. The excess energy absorbed turns into fat: this lipogenesis is controlled by insulin, a pancreatic hormone. Lipolysis, the breakdown of fat by the body, in theory happens at night or between two sufficiently spaced meals, and is affected by adrenaline. Lipolysis and lipogenesis must be in balance, but when someone is overweight, this balance is broken. As such, it is essential to rebalance food intake, starting by avoiding quick-acting sugars (refined sugars, pastries, soft drinks) that cause too much insulin to be released. These sugars promote absorption of sugar and its conversion into fat. Eating sweet foods leads to a yo-yo effect when sugar levels drop, resulting in fatigue and a craving for more sweet foods. Similarly, it is recommended to limit the consumption of saturated fats and the mass-produced fats that are often hidden (butter, margarine, cold meats, ready-meals, etc.) as well as meals with too much salt, which promote water retention. Snacking is to be avoided as snack foods are often too rich.

Food intolerance linked to Immunoglobulin G (IgG) can in some cases explain weight gain, most notably by exacerbating the inflammatory processes associated with obesity.

Stress (physical strain, chronic fatigue, etc.) also play a role in excessive weight gain, as they disrupt the metabolism of our neurotransmitters and insulin, which is responsible for fat storage. Hormone imbalances are also a cause, especially during menopause, and often contribute to health issues associated with ageing.

Jobs are increasingly sedentary, resulting in very low energy consumption and the lack of physical activity is clearly a major factor in weight gain and obesity. According to the WHO, in the past 10 years, physical inactivity in women rose by 16% and 90% of adults reported at least three hours of sedentary activity outside of work, linked to an increase in time spent in front of a screen.

In order to maintain your weight, regular endurance activities are essential (walking, running, cycling). According to a study in the British Medical Journal, this would reduce the risk of developing colon and breast cancer, diabetes, strokes and cardiovascular diseases by 20%.

Genetics is now also known to play a role in weight gain. To date, 60 genes or gene sequences have been identified as being involved in weight gain or obesity, targeting hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, hormones related to hunger and satiety.

Finally, a growing number of studies are pointing towards the balance of intestinal flora playing a major role in regulating weight, via the link between the intestines and the brain, which is now recognised as having a key role in a number of physiopathological processes.

The causes of undernutrition

On the opposite end of the spectrum, undernutrition, which can affect up to 5% of elderly people living at home and 20 to 60% of people living in an institution (according to the Successful Aging website), is a pathological condition characterised by insufficient energy intake and/or the body failing to use it efficiently. In fact, physiological ageing can result in metabolic changes (in particular the gradual reduction of lean body mass and its replacement with fat) causing a loss of weight, which can even, in certain cases, be accompanied by a resistance to renutrition.

What ffect does being over- or underweight have on health?

Consequences of being overweight

Unlike temporary pains that you feel immediately (such as toothache), being overweight gradually damages the body, sometimes without the individual even being aware of it.

Certain pathologies are very common, such as high blood pressure, which is three times more likely than in people who are of a normal weight. High blood pressure also increases the risk of strokes.

Blood circulation can also suffer, especially when there is excess fat in the thighs and belly, as it is harder for blood to travel from the feet to the heart. As such, it can result in heavy legs, oedema, varicose veins and even thrombosis. Joint pain is also very common, as excess weight causes joints to wear faster, leading to arthritis. Arthritis in the knee is four to five times more common in people who are overweight, as they are subject to a force of three to six times the individual’s bodyweight when walking.

Atherosclerosis resulting from hypercholesterolemia is another consequence of obesity and being overweight, when plaque, made of fat cells, builds up and gradually blocks the arteries. Complications can be major, leading to apoplexy, heart attacks and debilitating arthritis.

Finally, the risk of type 2 diabetes is three times higher in people who are obese. Abdominal fat in particular increases the risk, as abnormal build-up in the cells over time causes the liver to develop insulin resistance and insulin deficiency.

The consequences of undernutrition

Here, we refer to an undernutrition spiral, as people diagnosed with undernutrition lose weight due to insufficient nutrient intake. As a result, they become fragile, both in terms of their immune defences and mentally. It ultimately becomes difficult to return to a state of balanced nutrition once undernutrition has occurred, with the individual falling ill repeatedly.

Laboratory tests: an essential step

Laboratory testing can be helpful for detecting, diagnosing and preventing these weight-related pathologies:

  • BasicCheck can objectivise hormone imbalances, (micro-)nutrient imbalances, being in a pre-diabetic state, chronic candidiasis or oxidative stress, all of which can be the cause behind weight problems,
  • you can then turn to more targeted supplemental analyses: DigestCheck if it appears to be a digestive issue, NutriCheck for nutritional issues, WeightCheck or AgeCheck Man or Woman if the cause of the weight problem appears to be the result of hormone or neurotransmitter imbalances,
  • examination of intestinal flora is included in the wellness range of tests offered by Juvenalis. Watch this space!

Using all of this information, your practitioner will then be able to identify specific markers or parameters and prepare an appropriate nutritional monitoring or treatment plan.

Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor!