Our Thoughts on Metabolism May Be Wrong
by Claire Allen, RD
It has been commonly thought that as we age our metabolism declines and that women tend to have slower metabolisms than men. A new study in the journal of Science stands to prove these assumptions wrong. This study incorporated data from nearly 6,500 people ranging from age 8 to 95 years old. Metabolic rates were analyzed using doubly labeled water, which involves tracking the amount of carbon dioxide a person exhales during activities. Participants’ height, weight and percent body fat were also a part of the analysis. The chief findings were that metabolism differs for all people across four distinct stages of life:
- “Infancy up until age 1 calorie burning is at its peak, accelerating until it is 50 percent above the adult rate.”
- “From age 1 to about age 20, metabolism gradually slows by about 3 percent a year.”
- “From age 20 to 60, it holds steady.”
- “After age 60, it declines by about 0.7 percent a year.”
Additionally, once researchers controlled for body size and the amount of muscle mass of participants, they found no differences between men and women in terms of metabolic rate. It’s important to note that while the metabolic rate may be steady for the population, some individuals may have metabolisms significantly higher or lower than the average for their age. According to the researchers, these outliers did not change the general findings of the study. It does make us wonder, however, what are the distinguishing characteristics of people who have a higher metabolism.
Scientists of course have conflicting viewpoints on this new research. Some are calling it a “pivotal paper that may reshape the science of human physiology.” Others are cautious, stating this only gives a “30,000-foot view of energy metabolism.” At any rate, it gets us thinking that we may need to pivot our common thoughts on metabolism. But that is the beauty of science, learning more every day.
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If you are interested in learning more about metabolism or the factors that may impact your weight, contact our clinic at 224-407-4400 or at www.compgihealth.com to set up a session with one of our registered dietitians.