According to Bob Hope, the comedian, middle age is when your age starts showing around your middle.
Scientists have now found out what the cause of middle-aged spread is and how it can be turned off.
According to University of Aberdeen researchers, signals from the brain which tell us when to stop eating because we are full become less efficient with aging. This may imply that we only eat a few more forkfuls of food or take a few more sips of wine at each meal, but those extra calories soon accumulate and result in about one pound of additional weight each year.
These signals can be reactivated by using drugs which have been developed to help those suffering obesity to lose weight.
This means that people in their 20s or 30s can be offered the drug, which will result in middle-aged spread being stopped.
There is a small set of brain cells which bear responsibility for producing pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) peptides to regulate body weight and appetite. As a person approaches middle-age, these cells start slowing down and stop transmitting signals, which makes it more difficult to feel full. The additional amounts of food and drink that is consumed amounts to about one pound per year and this will eventually result in a normal person carrying an additional 20 to 30 pounds by the time they reach middle-age.
In the US, a new drug called Lorcaserin has been launched which will re-activate the signal completely. It has not yet been licensed in Europe or the UK.
The chair in human nutrition at the University of Aberdeen, Professor Lora Heisler, said many people wonder why they gain weight if they have not changed their eating habits.
She said that more than 50% of the UK population is overweight and 25% are clinically obese. The problem is that it is extremely difficult to lose weight once it is already there, but if this drug could help people before they reach that stage, it would be beneficial. She added that the NHS could use the drug as part of a strategy to aid people in losing weight.
According to statistics, in excess of one third of males and females in the UK will be diagnosed as clinically obese by 2030. This will cost the NHS an additional £19.2bn each year.
The National Obesity Foundation’s Tam Fry, said this approach would aid overweight people, but advised that young people should not be given the drug prior to having gained weight. He said that this is heading in the right direction and this type of drug could become the Holy Grail in the fight against obesity.
However, he stated that middle-aged spread is due to a range of factors. He added that people need to practice self-control and not rely on drugs. If they maintained a healthy diet and did regular exercise, many of their problems would disappear.
Image Credit: John Ragai