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True or False? Metabolism Declines With Age

Metabolism May Not Decline With Age as Previously Thought

We all somehow know that it's much harder to shed that excess pounds or maintain a healthy weight as we age because our metabolism slows down, and women struggle with this more than men because of a naturally slower metabolism.

But a new study published in August 2021 in Science suggests that neither of these maxims are true.

Metabolism, the rate at which the body burns energy, has long been thought to decline during middle age as people gradually lose muscle mass.

The data indicated that men and women had similar metabolic rates after accounting for body size and muscle mass. There also were differences in metabolism based on four distinct periods in participants’ lives:

From infancy to 1 year old, metabolic rate surged until it was about 50 percent higher than it will be during adulthood.

From 1 to 20 years old, metabolism decreased by almost 3 percent a year.

From 20 to 60, metabolism didn't change.

After age 60, metabolism decreased by 0.7 percent annually

“These data suggest that the `middle age spread’ that we all know about anecdotally or personally is not due to a change in intrinsic metabolism as had been long thought,” says Rozalyn Anderson, PhD, coauthor of an editorial accompanying the study and a professor at the school of medicine and public health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “It is far more likely now that changes in behavior are at the root of it.”

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