Senior Health

After 65, thinner isn’t necessarily better!  What is a healthy weight ?

There are lots of weight-height equations, but the one most widely used is body mass index (BMI), established by the World Health Organization (WHO). By these standards, an adult man or woman who is 5’6” should weigh between 115 and

154 pounds (or a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9). But an Australian study conducted last year found that these guidelines might not be appropriate for those over 65.

Following 200,000 people 65 and older for 12 years, the researchers found that those with a BMI of 23 to 33 lived longer than their thinner peers. The lowest risk of death was found in those seniors with a BMI of 27.5 and that’s actually overweight by WHO standards.

“The older we get doesn’t mean we should be getting thinner and thinner,” says Jan Starkey, RD, CDE, nutrition clinic director for VCU Medical Center. “It’s actually not a bad thing to have a few extra pounds.”

According to Professor Caryl Nowson, a professor of nutrition and aging at Deakin University who led the Australian study, “Rather than focusing on weight loss, older people should put their efforts into having a balanced diet, eating when hungry and keeping active.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.