Obesity and Aging Are Linked

A just published paper makes the case that carbohydrate restriction with high-intensity interval training is the optimal combination to treat metabolic disease. Let’s take a look at why this combination makes the optimal lifestyle intervention to fight aging too, because obesity and aging are linked.

Obesity and aging are two sides of the same coin

Obesity and aging are quite similar; many health markers that change with aging are related to the same metabolic markers that change in obesity.

In healthy young people, markers of biological age increase from age 26 to age 38. Aging is apparent even then.

The markers that change (increase or decrease) are very similar to those that change with obesity. Hemoglobin A1c, cardiorespiratory fitness, waist-hip ratio, BMI, triglycerides, blood pressure, and HDL all change in aging as they do in obesity. See chart below.




Calorie restriction is the most robust and reliable anti-aging intervention, although intermittent fasting and a ketogenic diet may perform just as well. Based on those facts, it’s not hard to see why obesity and aging are related: less food (or less carbohydrates) leading to leanness and longer life; more food (or more carbohydrates) leading to obesity and shorter life.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., and is highly correlated to both aging and obesity. Some 90% of cancers occur in those over the age of 50, and about 50% in those age 70 or more. At the same time, obesity is responsible for about 40% of all cancers. Similar comparisons could be made with heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other health problems.

Virtually all of the health conditions associated with aging have insulin resistance as a component, just as obesity does.

Good insulin sensitivity is critical for health, and is inherent to being lean and muscular.

Staying lean and muscular as you get older

As I’ve written about ad infinitum on this site, as well as in my books, eating a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, with no added sugar, seed oils, or refined carbs, is essential to staying healthy, and essential to staying lean as you get older.

For staying muscular, strength training, which involves some form of resistance training, is the way to go. Like what I did today:

I’m 62, not that old, and what I did in the video above is certainly not setting any world records, even for my age. But few men or women are doing anything that strenuous. They’re being passive and sedentary, and getting old and fat.

Anyway, back to obesity and aging.

As the review mentioned above makes clear – and again, as I’ve discussed a lot – high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most effective ways, in addition to weight training, to get and maintain good insulin sensitivity. In literally a few minutes every other day, HIIT can get you as fit as spending 45 minutes a day doing moderate-intensity continuous exercise (MICT, cardio, or aerobics).

Add carbohydrate restriction and you get instant benefits for insulin sensitivity. A mere three days of a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet can massively increase insulin sensitivity.

Fasting insulin is a very good measure of insulin sensitivity. (Other tests, like a glucose tolerance test with insulin also measured, are somewhat more accurate, but time-consuming and expensive and probably don’t add that much more value to the information you get from a fasting insulin.) My lifestyle of low-carb, whole-food eating, weightlifting, and a bit of HIIT gives me a fasting insulin of 2.9, which I’ll assert is in the low single-digit percentile for my age, or anybody’s age possibly.

Staying lean and muscular in aging: all there is to it?

Certainly people age even if they’re lean, even if they train for strength. I don’t want to give the impression that there’s nothing more to it. Even the fittest are going to die at some point.

What else can you do to retard aging as much as possible, and live to a time of technologies that reverse aging/

  • fast intermittently
  • ensure good vitamin D levels
  • dump iron
  • avoid seed oils like the plague, and ensure adequate omega-3 intake
  • avoid sugar
  • drink moderately (if you drink)
  • don’t be sedentary (even if you exercise)
  • sleep well

I’m probably forgetting a few things here, but if you do them, and follow the diet and exercise plans I recommend, you’ll be doing about 99% of everything necessary to fight both aging and obesity.

PS: For more on this topic, see my books Muscle Up, Stop the Clock, and Dumping Iron.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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