Successful Aging and the Obesity Paradox

So many insights being generated at today's Institute of Medicine Workshop.  Follow along via the webcast and my tweets @alewinzwerdling. 

Question of the day:

How do we define 'successful aging'?  (and who should define it?)

Dr. Meydani from the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging is attempting to tackle these questions. 

Here are some studies that begin to address these questions. 

BMJ, 2005.

The Gerontologist, 2002.

The Gerontologist, 1996.

We are also learning that overweight and mildly obese older adults are shown to have lower mortality compared to normal weight older adults. As Dr. Jensen of Penn State rightly underscores, 'how do we communicate this message to practitioners?'  Certainly we don't want a cheeseburger stampede!  Turns out lean body mass is a key factor in whether or not overweight is actually protective.  Elevated BMI may have 'no protective effect in the presence of reduced muscle mass.'

Dr. Jensen concludes, 'Obesity does not generally confer mortality or health benefits.' Yet, 'Current use of NIH BMI guidelines warrants reevaluation for older persons." 

Certainly these two areas - successful aging and the obesity paradox - need greater understanding, particularly how they are connected to one another.  

Stay tuned for more big thoughts!