Nearly 35% of adults in the U.S. aged 65 and over have obesity, and the prevalence of chronic metabolic disease and impaired functional status among older adults with obesity is particularly high.
Older adults with obesity are at particularly high risk of developing cardiometabolic disease such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Rather than total fat mass, deposition of fat in certain areas, such as the abdominal cavity and skeletal muscle, may confer this greatest risk of disease development.
The study’s lead author is Amy Goss, Ph.D., RDN, an assistant professor with University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center, Department of Nutrition Sciences. Goss says her team aimed to determine if a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet would deplete these fat depots and preserve lean mass without intentional caloric restriction in older adults with obesity, thereby improving outcomes related to cardiometabolic disease, such as insulin sensitivity and the lipid profile.
“After the eight-week intervention, despite the recommendation to consume a weight-maintaining diet, the group consuming the low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight and total fat mass than the control diet group,” Goss said.
Egg consumption was an important part of the VLCD prescription. Goss and her team provided eggs to the participants in this diet group and asked them to consume at least three per day.
“While eggs were a part of this study, we can’t conclude that our findings are a result of daily egg consumption; but I think what we can conclude is that whole eggs can be incorporated into the diet in a healthful way without adversely impacting blood cholesterol in older adults,” she said.
The primary difference in fat lost between the two groups was from the abdominal cavity and the skeletal muscle depots. “We also found significant improvements in the overall lipid profile that would reflect decreased risk of cardiovascular disease,” Goss said.
“Further, insulin sensitivity improved in response to the low-carbohydrate diet reflecting reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. Overall, we observed improvements in body composition, fat distribution and metabolic health in response to an eight-week, very low-carbohydrate diet.”
Goss says low carb diet is a therapeutic option for many conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.