A recent study suggests that your metabolism doesn’t actually slow down until the age of 60.
The research studied people from 29 countries, aged 8-days-old to 95 years old. It examined “energy expenditure” (otherwise known as metabolism). Beyond this, over 6,000 individuals were a part of smaller studies in their respective countries. Later, the data was shared by scientists, resulting in the first collaboration to examine metabolism across the lifespan.
So, what exactly did it say and what should it tell us?
What Is Metabolism?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.”
There are several factors that determine an individual’s basal metabolic rate or metabolism. Basically, everybody’s body is different and the rate at which you expend energy will be different than your friends or even someone in your own family. Your body size, composition, sex, and age all contribute to your individual metabolism.
Metabolism takes into account all of the energy your body uses. Even when your body is at rest, your body needs energy for breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells. Metabolism also accounts for energy expended during exercise.
Weight and metabolism are also linked. However, the assumption that weight gain is due to having a slow metabolism is typically false. Granted, there are exceptions to this. For example, there are medical conditions that cause weight gain due to a slowing metabolism. Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroidism are two possible medical problems that can result in weight gain due to changes in metabolism. Crash dieting can also slow down a person’s metabolism and cause weight gain.
But this is information most of us already knew. So, what does the new study say?
What’s In The New Study?
The study revealed several unexpected results.
One was that metabolic rate is at its highest when a child reaches one year old. According to the study, one-year-olds burn calories about 50% faster than they will in adulthood. After reaching its peak at one, metabolism starts to slow down (about 3% per year) until a person reaches the age of 20.
Surprisingly, puberty doesn’t have an effect on metabolism. From 20 years old to 60, a person’s metabolism stays steady, according to the study. This even took into account pregnancy and other milestones. Until 60, metabolism stayed constant.
What Are The Reasons For Middle Age Weight Gain?
If a slowing metabolism isn’t to blame for middle-aged weight gain, then what’s the reason for it? Simple answers for middle-age weight gain are likely linked to consuming more calories than are burned and living a more sedentary life.
According to Professor John Speakman, a co-author of the study, stated, “Previously there was a suggestion that metabolism might slow in your 30s and that was then thought to [cause] susceptibility to middle-age spread.” However, the study didn’t find any supporting evidence.
“If you are piling the weight [on] and your waistline is expanding during your 30s and 40s,” continued Speakman, “it’s probably because you are eating more food, then expending less energy.”
This can be due to sitting in an office more often or working from home in front of a screen all day. Even when we’re not working, we may be less active than we were in our teens and twenties. Essentially, lifestyle changes have a lot to do with it. Juggling home life, family, and work leaves little time for physical activity.
Food is also morally neutral. (Just want to get that out of the way.) And, obviously, not everyone in their 30s and 40s gains weight. But given that there is a term called “middle-aged spread” it seems to be common.
This can be because we are hitting the drive-thru a little bit more often, especially if we have school-aged kids. Snacks that may have not been in our homes before may now be around because of our kids, too.
Another reason could be linked to neurological make up. According to a 2008 study, increased hunger and weight gain may be due to a deterioration of appetite-suppressing cells in our brains.
Dr. Zane Andrews, a neuroendocrinologist, stated, “People in the age group of 25 to 50 are most at risk. The neurons that tell people in the crucial age range not to over-eat are being killed off.” Andrews stated that foods richer in carbohydrates and sugars caused more significant degeneration.
So, while our metabolisms don’t just instantly begin to slow as we reach middle age, there are other factors to account for. But there is a tangible solution to this delimma: eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, and managing your stress levels. Those simple steps can help you maintain or, if you choose, lose weight during your middle age years.