Friday, April 28, 2006

Weight loss reduces frailty in obese older adults

Weight loss reduces frailty in obese older adults

Last Updated: 2006-04-25 16:33:42 -0400 (Reuters Health)

By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In obese adults in their 60s and 70s, moderate weight loss achieved through diet and exercise goes a long way in improving physical function and combating frailty, a study shows.

"Obesity is an important cause of physical decline in older persons and can lead to a loss of functional independence in the community, by predisposing to frailty," Dr. Dennis T. Villareal from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis told Reuters Health. "Frailty is the diminished ability to perform important practical and social activities of daily living," he explained.

"Our findings," Villareal said, "support the benefits of weight loss and exercise in decreasing frailty in obese older persons," as well as improving physical functioning and health-related quality of life.

In the study, 27 frail obese older volunteers were randomly assigned to 26 weeks of diet and exercise (treatment group) or no treatment (control group). The treatment group attended weekly weight loss meetings and participated in exercise training three times weekly for six months. They also maintained a balanced diet to provide an energy deficit of roughly 750 kcal/d.

The treatment group lost 8.4 percent of body weight whereas weight did not change in the control group. The treatment group also saw a drop in fat mass, compared with the control group, without a change in lean fat-free mass.

Compared with the control group, the weight loss and exercise group also had improvements in physical function, as evidenced, in part, by higher test scores for peak oxygen uptake.

The exercise and weight loss intervention also led to objective improvements in muscle strength, walking speed, endurance and balance, which were accompanied by subjective improvements in the ability to function.

In the Archives of Internal Medicine, Villareal and colleagues add that it's generally thought that "successful weight loss is difficult to achieve in older adults because of ingrained, lifelong diet and activity habits." On the contrary, they found that "most of our subjects looked forward to the weekly group meetings and regular exercise sessions and embraced lifestyle change."

Frailty is an important problem in older adults because it leads to loss of independence and increases the risk of illness and death, Villareal and colleagues note in their report. Based on the study results, the researchers think that diet and exercise "should be considered as primary therapy in frail obese older adults."

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, April 24, 2006.

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