Tummy for men, thighs and bum for ladies!

The Introduction

fat tummyWhy is it that as we age the fat seems to stay on? Moreover, why does it appear on my tummy as a male and the thighs and butt of women? A recent review from a group of Canadian researchers sheds some light on what changes occur in fat distribution as we age. The findings suggest that, with aging, there is an increase in overall body fat. Moreover, fat moves away from the lower body to the abdominal region externally and round the viscera (internal organs) in both men and women. The researchers also highlight that this increased fat deposition, particularly round the liver, heart, and intestines is associated with increased health risk.

The Research

This research summarises around 90 previous studies examining age-related changes in body composition and associated health risks.

The Results

Studies report that total fat or percent body fat decrease after the age of 70 years in men and women. In longitudinal studies, it is reported that total fat mass also increases with age in white men and women. In men, this increase may approach 1% of fat mass per year throughout the lifespan. It appears tissues such as the heart, liver and skeletal muscle in the elderly have increased fat deposition, which increases risk for insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, aging is associated with increased fat content within bone marrow, which exposes the elderly to fracture risk beyond that associated with low bone mineral density alone.

The So What?

Stay active and moderate your food intake as you get older to prevent the ‘normal’ age-related increase in body fat. The major reason for this increase is an age-related decrease in muscle mass which is the largest consumer of energy (calories/kilojoules) in a day. Thus, weight training or high intensity training (hills, speed work) is the key to helping maintain muscle mass. As we age, if we don’t lower our food intake to account for this drop in muscle mass, the extra unused calories will go to the tummy as fat.

Kuk, J., Saunders, T., Davidson, L., Ross, R.  (2009). Age-related changes in total and regional fat distribution. Ageing Research Reviews. 8: 339-348.

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