Increasing levels of total and central body fat with advancing age contribute to the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disease. We examined gender-related differences and physiological predictors of the rate of increase in total and central body fat in men and women.
We studied 427 healthy men (age range, 17 to 90 years) and 293 women (age range, 18 to 88 years). We measured body fatness by hydrostatic weighing, central adiposity from the waist circumference, peak volume of oxygen utilization (V̇O2) from a treadmill test, leisure time physical activity (LTA) from a questionnaire, resting metabolic rate and respiratory quotient from indirect calorimetry, and energy intake from 3-day food diaries.
Fat mass increased with age, and the rate was greater in women (r=.61; slope=0.25 kg/y; P<.01) than in men (r=.43; slope=0.16 kg/y; P<.01). Increasing fat mass in men and women was most strongly associated with declines in peak V̇O2 and LTA. Controlling for these variables reduced the increase in fat mass from 17% to 3% per decade in men and from 26% to 5% per decade in women. The increase in waist circumference with age was also greater in women (r=.53; slope=0.28 cm/y) than in men (r=.39; slope=0.18 cm/y; P<.01). Increasing waist circumference with age in men and women was most strongly associated with declines in LTA and peak V̇O2, respectively. Control for these variables reduced the age-related increase in waist circumference from 2% to 1% per decade in men and from 4% to 1% per decade in women. We observed no independent contribution of resting metabolic rate, respiratory quotient, menopause status, energy, or macronutrient intake to the age-related increase in fat mass and waist circumference.
Our findings suggest that (1) the age-related increase in fat mass and waist circumference is greater in women than in men and (2) the physiological characteristics that reflect a decline in physical activity—related energy expenditure, rather than resting energy expenditure, are important predictors of the increases in total and central fatness. Lifestyle changes that increase the level of physical activity may be advantageous in blunting age-related increases in total and central body fatness.(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:2443-2448)