August 27, 2007
Weight Gain With Age Slows As Muscle Converts To Fat
Down with aging. First people gain weight and then their muscles start dissolving into fat.
Researchers have discovered that middle age spread seems to have an effect on waistlines but not weight as people get older.
Researchers, funded by the Medical Research Council, have found that people in early middle age seem to put on more weight more quickly than people slightly older. But the waistlines of the older group seem to grow more quickly.
The stage when the waistlines start expanding more rapidly is when the muscles wither.
One of the researchers Geoff Der, from the MRC’s Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow explained:
“As people get older it seems that their bodies change… they lose muscle and get fatter – this explains why middle-age spread might not be reflected on the bathroom scales.”
He goes on: “This challenges the traditional method of measuring how fat a person is: the body mass index. The BMI is a good measure of lean body tissue, but an expanding waistline may be a more reliable measure of the amount of fatty tissue a person has gained. Although the people in the older middle age group in this study appeared to put on less weight than the younger people, their waist circumferences continued to grow over time. What appears to have been happening is that the increase in fat was being obscured by a loss of muscle mass.’’
So first you gain weight. Then your weight gain slows but some of your muscle mass gradually converts to fat. How disgusting. Really, we need rejuvenation therapies. Aging takes away your muscles and makes you fat. This is something we can do without. We should support bigger efforts to figure out how to avoid the decay of aging.
When you head into middle age the odds of keeping the weight off are definitely against you.
The researchers carried out a nine-year study of 1044 people aged either 39 or 59 in 1991. The height, waist circumference and weight of each participant was measured in 1991, 1995 and 2000, and used to measure changes in body mass index over time.
Only one in five (20%) of the people maintained a stable weight as the study progressed. Steady weight gain was measured in the younger group, more than 42% of study participants put on 10kg, 17% gained 5kg.
On average, both men and women in the younger group gained between 0.5kg and 1kg a year. This weight gain was fastest in their younger years. Those in the older age group gained least weight in the second half of the study, however, although their overall weight may not have changed their waist circumference did.
Aging is bad. The physical changes that come from the accumulation of damage to your body are a big and increasing negative. I'm talking downsides. I'm talking losses. Something to be avoided.
We need to seriously try to develop treatments that will reverse the aging process. The defeat of aging is an achievable goal and it is a goal that will be achieved in this century. But whether it comes soon enough for most of us depends on how hard we push to achieve it.
Losing muscle while gaining fat is a different thing than muscle turning into fat.
Muscle is protein and fat is, well , fat.
Saying muscle turns to fat is like saying carbon turns into hydrogen.
BMI is an example of a metric that is not very useful. The problem with BMI is that muscular people will have a high BMI even though they have low body fat. This is because BMI is simply the ratio of weight to height. It does not account for variation in body type. Body fat percentage analysis, measured either by resistance or by water tank immersion) is a far more useful metric. The ideal body fat percentage is around 11-12% for men and 22% for women. You can easily and cheaply have your body fat percentage measurement done at most fitness gyms for a modest fee, $5-$15.
The real question is why is there such a failure of the capital markets?
Capital market failure? I assume you are referring to the fact that the free market system has yet to deliver effective anti-aging therapies. This is a good question and one I often wonder about myself.
I think its cultural inertia.
Most people consider aging to be a natural developmental thing, kind of like puberty, rather than as a degenerative medical condition or disease. Along with this is the dogma that aging is a mysterous process that is somehow inherently incomprehensible to science. They don't think like we do that biology, like any other physical phenomenon, is based on objective priciples that can be understood through the process of rational thought and scientific inquiry. For these reasons, people are not motivated to involve themselves to develop or consume effective anti-aging therapies.
There is also the issue of religion. Some religious types believe its morally wrong to cure aging because (according to thier religion) we really do not "own" our bodies and ourselves. Rather, they believe that we are borrowing or leasing our bodies (and ourselves) from a god entity for a fixed period of time and that we must return them when that lease period is up, kind of like a rental car). Also, we are not allowed to return them early (a.k.a. suicide) if they should start to wear out and become non-functional before the lease period is up. At least this is how it was explained to me by a christian guy over on the "2blowhards" blog. Why a god entity would create us with full sentience and autonomy, in bodies that obviously that have a fixed life-time (isn't this called planned obsolescence in the auto industry?) and then forbid us to develop the capability to repair/rebuild them on our own, is incomprehensible to me. It seems to me that this god entity is doing all of this simply to play a head game on us. Anyways, none of it makes any sense to me at all.
I think that as the boomers age, they will start to question some of these dogmas and start to insist that something be done about this. Or maybe private parties really do need to make a major breakthrough (like rejuventating and immortalizing a mouse) in order to convince people to disguard these dogmas.
Hopefully this is a good explanation of the "marketplace failure" (assuming that WAS the question that you are asking).
Capital markets cannot target an end point (aging) that is not classified as a disease by the FDA and thus cannot be approved and further, will not be subsidized by insurance. Add to that the very long lead time (decade plus) and the remaining societal ambivalence regarding extended longevity and you have a seriously difficult hurdle for capital to jump. Further, capital seeks the lowest risk/highest return, so internet companies with 2 - 4 year exits to liquidity and capital gains compete with biotech in general.
The refusal of the FDA to classify aging as a treatable condition is a major hurtle to overcome. This attitude on the part of the FDA is a part of the cultural inertia that I was referring to previously. Both cultural and bureaucratic inertia. I think that demonstration of effective anti-aging therapies in laboratory animals will convince the FDA to change this stance.
Mere "cultural inertia" doesn't explain much if there are functioning capital markets due to a little thing called the profit motive. The anti-aging market is probably bigger than any other health market. FDA classification of aging doesn't mean anti-aging research can't go on -- nor that the results of said research can't be commercialized. If age-related illnesses can be shown to be reduced in longitudinal studies then those diseases, not "aging" would be the appropriate FDA classification in the absence of sane FDA policy.
Sorry, these explanations just don't seem reasonable to me.
Further, capital seeks the lowest risk/highest return, so internet companies with 2 - 4 year exits to liquidity and capital gains compete with biotech in general.
This is the closest anyone has come to providing an explanation for the capital market failure surrounding anti-aging. I'm not sure I go along with it but it seems more reasonable than any other hypotheses offered so far.
The main problem is there are no numbers attached to the argument and, as John McCarthy says, "He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense."
Capital seeks the lowest risk/highest return, so internet companies with 2 - 4 year exits to liquidity and capital gains compete with biotech in general.
I'm sure this is true. There is a huge market in "anti-aging" stuff if the explosion in the popularity in cosmetic surgery and dietary supplements is any guide.
The fundamental problem is discouragement.
People learn early in life about death, and are so shocked and depressed that they find rationalizations to cope with it, especially the existence of an afterlife.
When you ask people to fund longevity research, you're asking them to take the emotional risk of leaving those rationalizations behind, and go for the real thing. I agree, a mouse breakthrough might be just the thing. Then you'll get people like Michael Millken(sp?) to stop funding their personal diseases (e.g., prostate cancer), and go aggressively for the whole megillah.
Guys, Aubrey's SENS book comes out early next week. I am going to do a little experiment. I plan to buy a copy. Since I fly around a lot (I work in sales in the semiconductor industry), I will carry the book with me on my flights and see if I attract any kind of attention, either positive or negative, and what follow on conversations from my fellow passengers.
I will have a fair idea in the next few months as to if cultural inertia is an issue here. I suspect not. Even in the conservative town I grew up in (Spokane, Washington), you see billboard adverts along the freeway for stuff like Lasix eye surgery and various plastic surgical procedures. People would not be spending the kind of money on this stuff they do if they did not want to atleast look younger and have increased functionality.
The fundamental problem really is discouragement, but of a particular sort. Aubrey de Grey sees the biggest obstacle in the way of a full court press Manhattan Project to cure aging comes from scientists. The scientists fail to say that the goal is possible. Hence the goal does not get funded.
Yes, there is a failure of leadership from those we rely on to provide scientific info. OTOH, they're only human, and they're embedded in a culture which has this discouragement deeply ingrained. It's not so easy to move really far from the emotional center - you can see this in the fact that there is a significant minority of scientists who are still fairly conservatively religious. A few, like Walford, have provided some leadership.
It's pretty lame to lay the blame at the doorstep of people who don't have the money. There are people with money. What's wrong with them as a group? Does money damage them? Does the system put money in the wrong hands (a generalization of the "low risk fast turn around options sucking up all the capital" hypothesis)?
Usually I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this article really forced me to do so! Thanks, really nice article.