If you’re in your 30s or 40s, you may have noticed that it’s a little more difficult to maintain your weight than it was in your 20s. In fact, you may feel like you could indulge in all the beer pizza your heart desired with no consequences in college, but now your pants fit a little tighter after just one extra scoop of peanut butter. Ugh, right?
If you can relate to this, you should know two things. First, you’re not crazy and second, you’re not alone. According to science, it is harder to maintain our weight as we age. The good news is that researchers may have just figured out one of the big reasons why.
The study, published in Nature Medicine , was a collaboration between researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden and University of Lyon in France. The team studied the fat cells of 54 men and women for an average of 13 years and found that all the participants showed decreases in lipid turnover (AKA, how quickly fat was either stored or removed from fat cells). Even more interesting was the fact that this decrease in lipid turnover held true regardless of how much weight the participant lost or gained in the 13 years.
So what does this mean? According to Peter Arner, one of the study’s lead authors and professor at the Department of Medicine in Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet, “the results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during aging in a way that is independent of other factors.” In other words, even when there’s no change in diet or lifestyle factors it becomes more difficult to maintain your weight as you get older thanks to lipid turnover.
This isn’t great news, but according to Arner, it’s not all bad news since this newfound knowledge could open up new ways to treat obesity. As Kirsty Spalding—a senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet and one of the study’s other main authors—explained, “Obesity and obesity-related diseases have become a global problem…Understanding lipid dynamics and what regulates the size of the fat mass in humans has never been more relevant.”
In the meantime, the authors point out that previous research has suggested that you may be able to speed up lipid turnover in fat tissues by exercising more. If you’re not sure where to get started, try this 12-minute HIIT workout you can do anywhere or enroll in mbg’s Boost Your Metabolism class with JJ Virgin.