Have you ever wondered why athletes often cannot maintain their weight as they get older? Could the culprit be their newly discovered passion for binge-watching while eating fast food? Or could it be that they changed…nothing at all? Interestingly, new research shows that as you get older, the rate at which lipids are removed from your fat tissue decreases, which may explain why maintaining weight is harder as you grow older.
Our white adipose tissue, the main fat-storing tissue in human adults, is one of the main targets when tackling obesity or weight changes. Its size is determined by a phenomenon called lipid turnover – the balance between how much energy your body stores as fat and how much it burns of the stored fat.
Imagine you have a high lipid turnover. Then, the average time lipids spend in your adipose tissue is low. Now imagine you have matched that with the perfect diet. As long as your lipid turnover doesn’t change, your weight will stay the same. The caveat comes with your ever increasing age.
The researchers had been following adults for up to 16 years and continued to measure the lipid turnover of their subcutaneous fat. They discovered that, irrespective of long-term changes in body weight, initial age or even level of exercise, the rate of lipid removal from their fatty tissue was decreasing with age. This means that, as you age, if you keep that exact same (now not-so-perfect) diet, your lipid uptake will get higher than your lipid removal and you will gain weight. In fact, participants who didn’t change their diet during the study period saw their weight increase.
How can you cope with this? To put it simply, the fat that gets stored in your body mainly reflects the amount of food you eat (and not only extra fat, but also extra sugar, gets stored as fat!). Although other factors, such as exercise or the composition of your diet, may eventually also influence fat deposition, this will not alter your rate of lipid removal. So, until other therapeutic approaches come out, we may have to accept that, as we age, we may need to lighten our diets if we want to avoid those extra pounds.