We all know the benefits of losing weight for health, fitness and even our self-confidence. The most sustainable way for healthy weight loss is to combine a balanced diet with regular exercise, but what is the impact of weight loss on longevity?
The obesity pandemic
Being overweight or obese is a multifactorial health issue that can be caused by genetic, environment and lifestyle factors. The increased intake of high-fat, high-sugar food as well as reduced physical activity in the modern world has caused a global obesity epidemic, with obesity prevalence tripling between 1975 and 2016 .
The United States can be considered a microcosm of the global obesity crisis and has an alarming obesity prevalence of over 42% .
This has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which saw mass lockdowns and unprecedented inactivity levels, as well as an anecdotal rise in unhealthy habits like comfort eating and substance use. Unfortunately, being obese increases the risk and severity of chronic diseases such as COVID-19 .
Obesity is severely detrimental to health and wellbeing, and is associated with morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and certain cancers. The risk of these diseases increases with body mass index (BMI) .
Luckily, while factors like genes, ethnicity, sex and socioeconomic status can impact the risk of becoming obese, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can be controlled to prevent and treat obesity. There exists a plethora of weight loss methods, ranging from the sustainable to the extreme.
The simplest and most accessible way to lose weight is by starting a regular diet and exercise routine, specifically one where you consume fewer calories than your body uses – known as a calorie deficit. While this method can be more challenging to stick with than other, more quick-fix methods such as fasting, weight loss surgery and extreme diets, it is infinitely safer, less invasive and gives better weight loss results long term.
Weight loss for longevity
The benefits of weight loss to health and longevity are well-documented. The steps taken towards weight loss can be beneficial within themselves; for example, exercise promotes holistic health, especially cardiovascular health, while eating an optimal diet of grains, legumes, fish, fruit and vegetables can improve longevity by 10 years! .
This can be supported by taking longevity supplements, which contain active ingredients that work on the body’s aging pathways. Some versions even have additional weight loss benefits, like GLYLO’s glycation longevity supplements, which apply research from the Buck Institute. However, these supplements should only be taken to complement a healthy lifestyle for longevity.
Weight loss itself can have further benefits to longevity; one study found that intentional weight loss reduced the risk of all-cause mortality in unhealthy and obese adults .
The greatest benefit was seen in those with obesity-related metabolic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, as well as at-risk ethnic groups.
Whether the long-term effect of weight loss benefits longevity in those of a healthy weight remains less conclusive. One study into the effects of weight loss on all-cause mortality found that while intentional weight loss benefited longevity in obese and at-risk people, the effects in healthy people of a normal weight were negligible. Indeed, unintentional weight loss in this group may be a symptom of disease and can predict mortality risk as we age.
One explanation for this difference between groups may be that obese people are more motivated to make a change like reducing fat intake or increasing exercise level, benefiting their holistic health. In people of a healthy weight, weight loss through energy restriction may result in loss of lean body mass rather than body fat. It is hypothesized that fat loss can reduce all-cause mortality while loss of lean body mass could increase it .
While moderate weight loss in people of healthy weight appears to have a negligible, and possibly even negative, impact on longevity, losing weight in obese and at-risk people can benefit health and longevity. This supports the general hypothesis that the most effective way to guarantee your future longevity is through the tried and tested method of a healthy, balanced diet alongside regular exercise.