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Effects of obesity similar to those of aging

Researchers at Concordia University argue that obesity has effects that mirror those of aging. According to their review: obesity and ageing: two sides of the same coin,effects of obesity comprise of many life changing or life threatening conditions that are normally seen in older people.

At the cellular and molecular level, both obesity and ageing exhibit redox (reduction and oxidation) imbalance and insufficient removal for old, damaged cells and regeneration of new healthier cells. This results in cell functions deteriorating, inflammation and mitochondria (energy producing organelles) becoming dysfunctional. When dysfunctional mitochondria accumulate, chronic inflammation can result. Obesity also increases the epigenetic clock- another indicator of ageing. These changes accelerate the development of age related diseases.

Obesity also increases the epigenetic clock -another indicator of ageing where a biochemical test is used to measure age based on DNA methylation.

These changes accelerate the development of age related diseases.

As is the case in ageing, obesity also lowers immunity. According to the review, in both instances, individuals are at a higher risk of catching influenza, more frequently and severely, and are less protected by the influenza vaccines.

Also exhibiting in both aging and obesity is decreased cognition. While age is considered the main risk factor for Alzheimar’s disease (AD), obesity also seems to accelerate the risk of developing AD.  

At the same time, sarcopenia -a disease that’s characterized by decreased muscle mass and strength resulting in increased risk of falls, fractures, disability and death- is also seen among obese people in addition to non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular disease; common among older people.

Obesity has also been shown to alter gut microbiota which affects essential body antioxidants and metabolites.

In the current situation of COVID-19, obesity and other metabolic disorders such as diabetes have been strongly linked to worse outcomes from an infection with the virus.

Poor metabolic health, including obesity and diabetes, is strongly linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes, including risk of hospitalisation and death.

Global Nutrition Report, 2020

Now, research has shown that obesity decreases life expectancy; and increases the risk of premature death. Given, and owing to the fact that adults who are obese are at a higher risk of developing age-related conditions, researchers view obesity as a condition that accelerates ageing.  


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Christine Nderitu

As a licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. Her area of expertise lies not just in nutrition management but in health education and promotion in HIV/AIDS, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health as well as Non-Communicable Diseases, which she has engaged in for a decade. She is also a columnist in a leading local Daily. Christine has a keen interest in Non-Communicable Diseases prevention and control. She feels that the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour. And humanity. “We have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.”