Research update

Metabolism remains steady from about age 20 to 60, Science research finds

Study suggests that there may be other contributing factors to weight gain in the aging process.

Recent findings published in the journal Science show that human metabolism peaks at about age 1. The metabolism then decreases by roughly 3% annually until age 20. After that, it plateaus from age 20 to 60 and declines again at a rate of less than 1% annually.

The research showed that babies burn calories around 50% faster than adults, underscoring the significance of infant nutrition and meeting the caloric needs of growing babies.

The article used data from approximately 6,500 individuals. The ages of the participants ranged from eight days to 95 years. The research centers involved in the study examined the metabolic rate with the use of doubly labeled water. This technique measured caloric expenditure by tracking exhaled carbon dioxide during the participants’ daily activities.

The 4 metabolic life stages

Alexander Ford, DO, RD

To investigate fundamental metabolic rates, the researchers tracked height, weight, sex and body fat percentage. The study findings identified four significant life stages involving metabolism:

  • Metabolism peaks at age 1, accelerating until it is 50% above the rate of adults.
  • From age 1 to about age 20, metabolism gradually slows by approximately 3% annually.
  • Metabolism levels are steady between roughly age 20 to 60.
  • Metabolism declines again around age 60 and continues to decrease at a rate of 0.7% annually.

According to the study, while individual metabolic rates vary, they do not change the general metabolic patterns.

The findings of this study suggest that there may be other contributing factors to weight gain in the aging process. Nutritional genomics and its degree of impact on metabolic processes is an area of interest. Researchers may also further evaluate how the decline in muscle mass with aging impacts weight.

Nutrition and weight

Experts have touted several foods for their impact on metabolism and weight loss. Fiber has long been identified as important for weight control. Fiber is linked to satiety and bowel regulation, among other benefits.

Avocado is high in fiber and contains healthy fat, both of which may help with weight loss. One cup of sliced avocado contains 10 grams of fiber, meeting almost a third of the suggested total daily fiber intake. Dietary fiber also serves as a prebiotic to promote healthy gut bacteria.

Chili peppers contain a natural chemical compound called capsaicin. Capsaicin has been shown to aid in raising metabolism and is associated with decreasing hunger by lowering ghrelin, a hunger hormone in our body.

Research involving ginger and green tea has examined their antioxidant-rich profiles and inherent anti-inflammatory and weight loss properties.

When discussing foods for weight management with patients, encourage consumption of various nutrient-dense foods. Patients should also be advised to identify their hunger cues and remain conscious of hydration. Water is not only an essential nutrient but can also help maintain satiety.

Future research on metabolism may help us better understand the relationship between lifestyle and life cycle.

Related reading:

The anti-inflammatory diet: 5 things to know

5 myths about whole-food plant-based diets debunked

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