Nutrition-wise blog

Weight gain: Inevitable as you age?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. July 20, 2011

Is weight gain with age inevitable? It can seem that way when your weight climbs despite dieting and even exercising. Indeed, a recent study suggests that a range of lifestyle choices — not just the number of calories in your diet — influence your weight as you age.

The study included more than 100,000 men and women who were in good health and not obese. Their weight, diet and lifestyle habits were tracked for up to 20 years. The pounds seemed to creep on, with an average weight gain of slightly less than 2 pounds every 4 years.

What surprised researchers was that specific foods were independently associated with more weight gain:

  • Potato chips
  • Potatoes
  • Unprocessed red meats
  • Processed meats

On the other hand, eating more of some foods — vegetables, nuts, fruits and whole grains — was associated with less weight gain.

Liquid calories were another culprit. Alcoholic beverages and fruit juices were associated with a small but gradual increase in weight. Sugar-sweetened beverages were a major contributor to weight gain.

Lifestyle factors also influenced weight gain. Not surprisingly, physical activity was important to weight control. So was limiting TV time. Sleep also factored in. Weight gain was lowest among people who slept 6 to 8 hours a night and was higher among those who slept less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours.

Do any of these findings surprise you? Motivate you to change your habits? If so, how?

To your health,


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Jul. 20, 2011