For Aging Adults, Weight Change May Raise Mortality

Scientists involved in the Singapore Chinese Health Study have found that a weight change of ten percent or more increases the risk of death in middle-aged and elderly Singaporean Chinese.

AsianScientist (Dec. 27, 2018) – Weight change in middle-aged and elderly Singaporean Chinese is linked to increased mortality risk, according to scientists in Singapore. The findings have been published in the International Journal of Obesity.

A host of chronic health complications, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are associated with obesity. However, the precise implications of obesity on different ethnic groups remains unclear.

In the present study, researchers led by Professor Koh Woon Puay at the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Singapore, sought to understand the impact of obesity on Singaporean Chinese. They analyzed data from 36,338 middle-aged and elderly participants who had no history of cancer or cardiovascular disease and recorded the height and weight of study participants between 1993 and 2004.

The researchers found that both moderate-to-large weight gain and weight loss, defined as a change of ten percent or more in weight, are linked to increased risk of death among middle-aged and elderly Chinese Singaporeans, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

Surprisingly, weight loss was associated with higher risk than weight gain. Furthermore, excessive weight loss increased risk of death among participants who were overweight or obese to start with, and excessive weight gain might increase risk even among participants with low or normal body mass index at baseline.

“This first study on a large population-based cohort of Singaporean Chinese aligns with findings from similar studies conducted among European, Japanese and Korean populations,” said Koh who is also the Principal Investigator of the Singapore Chinese Health Study.

“The findings suggest that moderate-to-large weight change in mid-life and older age should be monitored closely by health practitioners, and weight loss, especially, should be considered critically in elderly individuals as it may be related to loss of muscle mass, frailty and poor control of chronic diseases,” she added.

The researchers urge caution in the interpretation of the study results, highlighting that information regarding whether the weight loss was intentional was not examined in this study. Whether the weight loss was due to loss of fat or lean mass was also not assessed. Nevertheless, findings from this Singapore study and studies in other populations suggest that it is prudent to maintain stability in body weight within the non-obese range for middle-aged and elderly populations to reduce risk of mortality.

“The observational nature of our study means we cannot generalize our findings to potential interventions at this point,” said Professor Koh. “Further studies are needed to understand the mechanisms underlying the association between weight change and mortality.”

The article can be found at: Pan et al. (2018) Weight Change in Relation to Mortality in Middle-aged and Elderly Chinese: the Singapore Chinese Health Study.


Source: National University of Singapore; Photo: Shutterstock.
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