It Pays to Eat Less as You Age

TUESDAY Jan. 6, 2009 -- Eat less, weigh less.

While it may sound painfully obvious, nutrition experts have been divided over whether cutting calories leads to long-term weight loss, because the practice can sometimes boomerang, triggering binge eating and weight gain.

But, new research suggests that eating less can pay big dividends, particularly as you age.

Publishing in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers from Brigham Young University reported that the middle-aged women they studied had more than twice the risk of significant weight gain if they didn't cut back on food consumption.

"Some suggest that restrained eating is not a good practice," BYU professor Larry Tucker, the study's lead author, said in a university news release. "Given the environmental forces in America's food industry, not practicing restraint is essentially a guarantee of failure."

The researchers followed 192 middle-aged women for three years and compiled information on their lifestyles, health and eating habits. The analysis revealed that women who didn't practice more restraint while eating were 138 percent more likely to put on 6.6 pounds or more, the news release said.

Columbia University researcher Lance Davidson, who was not involved with the study, said the findings underscore a key principle of weight control.

"Because the body's energy requirements progressively decline with age, energy intake must mirror that decrease or weight gain occurs," Davidson said. "Dr. Tucker's observation that women who practice eating restraint avoid the significant weight gain commonly observed in middle age is an important health message."

Tucker said the benefits of cutting back on what you eat aren't limited to your reflection in a mirror. Healthful eating equals better health, he said.

"Weight gain and obesity bring a greater risk of diabetes and a number of other chronic diseases," he said. "Eating properly is a skill that needs to be practiced."

Tucker offers these tips for better eating:

  • Record what you eat and how much.
  • Put less food on your plate.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. The U.S. food pyramid recommends at least five servings each day.

More information

To learn more about growing older and eating better, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Posted: January 2009


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