Researchers have found that obese patients over the age of 60 can lose an equivalent amount of weight as younger people using only lifestyle changes.
The findings, published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, will help to correct prevailing societal misconceptions about the effectiveness of weight loss programmes in older people, as well dispel myths about the potential benefits of older people trying to reduce their weight.
"Weight loss is important at any age, but as we get older, we're more likely to develop the weight-related co-morbidities of obesity," said study lead author Thomas Barber from the University of Warwick in the UK.
"Many of these are similar to the effects of aging, so you could argue that the relevance of weight loss becomes heightened as we get older, and this is something that we should embrace," Barber added.
The researchers randomly selected 242 patients who attended the WISDEM-based obesity service between 2005 and 2016 and compared two groups (those aged under 60 years and those aged between 60 and 78 years) for the weight loss that they achieved during their time within the service.
All patients had their body weight measured both before and after lifestyle interventions administered and coordinated within the WISDEM-based obesity service, and the percentage reduction in body weight calculated across both groups.
When compared, the two groups were equivalent statistically, with those aged 60 years and over on average reducing their body weight by 7.3 per cent compared with a bodyweight reduction of 6.9 per cent in those aged under 60 years.
Both groups spent a similar amount of time within the obesity service, on average 33.6 months for those 60 years and over, and 41.5 months for those younger than 60 years.
The hospital-based programme used only lifestyle-based changes tailored to each individual patient, focusing on dietary changes, psychological support and encouragement of physical activity.
Older people may feel that hospital-based obesity services are not for them.
"Service providers and policymakers should appreciate the importance of weight loss in older people with obesity, for the maintenance of health and wellbeing, and the facilitation of healthy ageing," the study authors wrote.