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New Research on the Link Between Aging and Obesity

Mar 02, 2020
Ashley Lawrie

Author: Riley Pearce
Director of Social Media

Aging may be an inevitable part of life, but the rate at which we age biologically is somewhat within our control. How we move, what we eat, and the quality of our sleep can all either help or hinder our biological aging. 

A recent study out of Concordia University has found that obesity could be a main driver for faster biological aging. 

The lead researcher actually started the project after noticing that young children were being diagnosed with adult-onset diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

The research team reviewed over 200 studies that report the effects of obesity on the body from the cellular level up to the full systemic, bodily function level. Aside from the obvious, that obesity leads to premature death, the researchers found a number of other observations that were able to confirm their theory that obesity mirrors aging.

There are a number of signs of aging. On the cellular level, our genes have a cap known as telomeres. Telomeres, in recent years, have been found to be a good indicator of health on the cellular level. The longer the telomeres, the healthier the cells, whereas the shorter the telomeres, the less healthy that individual likely is.

In obese patients, they found that their telomere length was up to 25% shorter than the control patients. This means that no matter how old you are chronologically, if someone is obese, their biological age will be much older.

The researchers also found that obesity mirrors aging in the areas of cognitive decline, mobility, and blood pressure. 

Going beyond the cells, obesity puts individuals at a higher risk of developing certain diseases because not only does it age the cells of the body, but also the systems. More specifically, obesity will age the immune system, making an individual less resilient to pathogens. 

The stress that the extra weight puts on the systems of the body requires the body to work very hard. This is potentially why obesity mirrors aging at this level. Think about driving a car. If you drive your car just a few kilometers every day, the car will last longer and won’t get run down so quickly. Now if you take that same car and drive it 100’s of kilometers every day, the chances of that car breaking down increase exponentially.

Our bodies are very good at keeping us alive. They will do whatever it takes, even if it means over-exhausting resources just to keep up moving every day. It is already very clear to us as a society that obesity is a health risk we all need to be aware of. With this new research it becomes even more apparent that we need systems in place to lower the rates of obesity within our society so that our communities can live longer lives.


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