The 80/20 Rule in Fighting Aging and Obesity


Vilfredo Pareto first formulated the rule named after him, the Pareto Principle, or as it’s now often known, the 80/20 Rule. The rule states that in many phenomena, 20% of the inputs generate 80% of the results — so as a practical matter, you should be focusing on those 20% of inputs, whether you are studying them or want to improve them. We can usefully apply the 80/20 rule in fighting aging and obesity.

Aging and obesity

A recent review paper noted that aging and obesity share many biological hallmarks.(1) This indicates that they share common mechanisms.

The hallmarks shared by obesity and aging include:

  1. Excess adipose (fat) tissue
  2. Inflammation
  3. Multi-organ damage
  4. Cognitive dysfunction
  5. Insulin resistance
  6. Impaired muscle function
  7. Immune dysfunction
  8. Osteoporosis – a high fraction of fractures in the elderly occur in the obese

In addition, calorie restriction, the most robust life-extending intervention known, has obvious implications for both obesity and aging. One reason calorie restriction works is by causing lower fat mass.

In a nutshell, obesity accelerates aging.

Given the shared characteristics of obesity and aging, staying lean could be one of the most effective anti-aging strategies currently available.

Muscle and bone loss

Loss of muscle and bone are hallmarks of aging, leading to sarcopenia and osteoporosis respectively. Both result in loss of function and frailty — the inability to perform daily activity without assistance.

Strong bones, a high muscle mass, and leanness are all characteristics of youthful people, whether men or women.

Aging means less muscle, weaker bones, and more fat, all wrapped up in a stew of insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

The 80/20 Rule

What are the 80% of outputs that we want in order to stay in a youthful condition? For instance, how much do we care about grey hair or wrinkles? Sure, it’s great not to have these, but we don’t want to concentrate our efforts on avoiding them, which is elusive in any case.

Our main outputs of interest will be less fat tissue, higher muscle mass, and along with these, less inflammation, greater insulin sensitivity, less oxidative stress, better autophagy.

Less fat tissue and more muscle mass are your 80% of desirable outputs.

Therefore, your 20% of causative inputs are those that most lead to less fat and more muscle.

Taking muscle first, weight lifting is the most effective means of increasing muscle. While all exercise is beneficial, for the twin purposes of remaining youthful and fat loss, weightlifting is the way to go. Aerobic exercise doesn’t come close in either category.

For fat loss, diet is much more important than exercise. And when you eat is as important as what you eat. I’m a partisan of both low-carb high-fat diets (LCHF) and intermittent fasting. Even if you’re already lean, a LCHF diet can keep you that way, and periodic intermittent fasting boosts the anti-aging process.

The most important 20% of inputs that fight aging and obesity are:

  1. Weight lifting
  2. LCHF diet
  3. Intermittent fasting

Once you are lean and muscular, you should continue to practice these.

After you have your desired 20% of inputs in place, you can look at the other 80%. These include supplements, keeping iron low, exposure to natural settings, love and friendship,  optimal levels of sex hormones, and quite a few others.

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

PS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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