Moderate Weight Gain over Time May Be Healthy

By Donna Kato, Los Angeles Times | THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 25, 1990 | Go to article overview

Moderate Weight Gain over Time May Be Healthy


Donna Kato, Los Angeles Times, THE JOURNAL RECORD


It all translates to the same thing: As you grow older, your girth expands.

If you catch yourself yearning for the day you can get back into your bridal gown or military uniform, consider medical evidence that implies it is healthier to gain a few pounds as you age than stay at the same fighting weight of your teens or 20s.

In this weight-conscious era of less-is-better, there are some physicians who stand by the premise that a little weight gain over the years actually may help you live longer, provided you are healthy and carrying a bit of extra weight is not a medical risk.

These conclusions were reached by the Gerontology Research Center (GRC) of the National Institute on Aging.

``Research accumulated over the past 10 to 15 years shows evidence that gradual, modest weight gain seems to go along with a lower mortality rate,'' said Dr. Herman Frankel, the medical director of the Portland (Ore.) Health Institute and chairman of the board of the Obesity Foundation, an affiliate of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.

``If you gain too much weight or gain it too fast, it puts you at risk to die sooner. And if you aren't gaining weight, it seems to be an indication of something possibly being wrong,'' he said.

His assertions are based on research conducted at the Baltimore-based National Institute on Aging and supported by other independent studies such as Boston University Medical School's Framingham Heart Study.

According to the gerontology center data, healthy individuals who steadily gained six to 10 pounds per decade had lower mortality rates than people who gained no weight or those who gained a large amount.

The findings first were published five years ago in the Annals of Internal Medicine and will be updated in the new edition of the ``Principles of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology,'' currently being prepared for publication.

Dr. Reubin Andres, director of the center and a principal player in the study, challenged the long-held standards of what is considered normal weight - the Metropolitian Life Insurance chart, which bases ideal weight ranges on gender and height for everyone between the ages of 25 and 59.

The GRC chart, developed by Andres and his colleagues, makes age the primary consideration and separates the weight range for each decade between 25 and 65 years old. (There was not enough data on individuals over the age of 70 to include in the study.)

``The Metropolitan Life table is about right for someone in his or her 40s,'' Andres said. ``It's too liberal for the 20s and not liberal enough for the decades after the 40s.''

Among his other reasons for questioning the validity of the Metropolitan chart is the fact that data was haphazardly collected by insurance actuaries from subjects insured by the company in the 1950s.

These people tended to be white and middle class, and provided their weight and measurements instead of being actually measured. In addition, the chart only considered height and weight measurements - poor indications of the body's true fat composition and distribution. …

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