Metabolism and Ageing: What Happens and Why?

Older couple walking to help metabolism

We’ve all heard it before – the lament of how much easier it was to stay fit or lose weight in our younger years. “It’s my metabolism,” is a common refrain. And it’s not just a handy excuse; there’s truth behind the sentiment. Our metabolism does change as we age, but why? Let’s delve into the mystery.

Metabolism Explained

Firstly, what is metabolism? At its essence, it’s the rate at which our body uses energy. This energy is vital for everything from breathing and circulating blood to repairing cells.

Why Does Metabolism Slow Down with Age?

  1. Loss of Muscle Mass: One of the most significant factors in metabolic decline is the reduction in lean muscle mass. Muscles are metabolic powerhouses – they burn more calories than fat, even when at rest. As we age, we tend to lose muscle, which can decrease the number of calories we burn.
  2. Hormonal Changes: Hormones play a crucial role in regulating metabolism. With age, the levels of some hormones, like testosterone in men and oestrogen in women, decrease, leading to a reduced metabolic rate.
  3. Physical Activity Reduction: As people get older, they often become less active, which can lead to muscle loss and a subsequent drop in metabolism.
  4. Changes in the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): BMR is the rate at which our body burns calories while at rest – essentially our idling speed. This decreases with age due to a combination of the above factors.

Can We Counteract Age-Related Metabolic Decline?

While we can’t turn back the clock, there are steps we can take to help maintain a healthier metabolic rate as we age:

  1. Strength Training: Lifting weights or engaging in resistance exercises can help increase muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when you’re resting.
  2. Regular Physical Activity: This isn’t just about hitting the gym. Simple activities like walking, gardening, or dancing can help maintain muscle tone and keep metabolism humming.
  3. Eating Protein-Rich Foods: Consuming adequate protein can support muscle maintenance and growth, helping in counteracting metabolic slowdown.
  4. Staying Hydrated: Water is crucial for metabolic processes, so make sure you’re drinking enough.
  5. Regular Health Check-ups: Monitoring hormone levels, getting regular health check-ups, and discussing any concerns with your GP can be instrumental in understanding and managing age-related changes.

In Conclusion

While a slowing metabolism might be a part of the ageing process, it’s not an inevitable descent. With proactive choices in diet, exercise, and lifestyle, we can give our metabolism the best fighting chance, ensuring a more energetic and active life in our later years.

For Those Who Want to Dig Deeper…

Metabolism and ageing is a topic of substantial interest in the field of gerontology and has garnered attention from researchers for several years. Here is a list of some scientific studies that cover aspects of metabolism and ageing:

  1. Lopez-Otin, C., Blasco, M. A., Partridge, L., Serrano, M., & Kroemer, G. (2013). The hallmarks of aging. Cell, 153(6), 1194-1217.
  2. Riera, C. E., & Dillin, A. (2015). Tipping the metabolic scales towards increased longevity in mammals. Nature cell biology, 17(3), 196-203.
  3. Barzilai, N., Huffman, D. M., Muzumdar, R. H., & Bartke, A. (2012). The critical role of metabolic pathways in aging. Diabetes, 61(6), 1315-1322.
  4. Fontana, L., & Partridge, L. (2015). Promoting health and longevity through diet: from model organisms to humans. Cell, 161(1), 106-118.
  5. Rogers, R. P., & Rogina, B. (2015). The role of INDY in metabolism, health and longevity. Frontiers in genetics, 6, 204.
  6. Bishop, N. A., & Guarente, L. (2007). Genetic links between diet and lifespan: shared mechanisms from yeast to humans. Nature reviews genetics, 8(11), 835-844.
  7. Kenyon, C. J. (2010). The genetics of ageing. Nature, 464(7288), 504-512.
  8. Houtkooper, R. H., Argmann, C., Houten, S. M., Cantó, C., Jeninga, E. H., Andreux, P. A., … & Auwerx, J. (2011). The metabolic footprint of aging in mice. Scientific reports, 1(1), 1-7.
  9. Longo, V. D., & Finch, C. E. (2003). Evolutionary medicine: from dwarf model systems to healthy centenarians?. Science, 299(5611), 1342-1346.
  10. Sun, N., Youle, R. J., & Finkel, T. (2016). The mitochondrial basis of aging. Molecular cell, 61(5), 654-666.

These studies provide insights into the metabolic changes that occur as organisms age, and they also touch on potential interventions or pathways that could be leveraged to promote healthy ageing. If you’re looking for more recent or specific studies, it may be beneficial to explore databases like PubMed, Google Scholar, or Web of Science for updates.