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Black and White women benefit the most from late-in-life weight loss, an analysis published Friday by JAMA Network Open found.
Data collected from eight clinical trials revealed women and men of both races lost similar amounts of weight while on calorie-restrictive diets. However, women saw more improvement in their walking ability and balance after dropping the weight, the researchers said.
And, although that older White adults lost 9% of their body weight after being placed on a calorie-restrictive diet, while Black adults lost 6%, the latter group saw more improvement in their walking speeds after dieting, the researchers said.
"The effect of weight loss on physical function varies by race and sex," study co-author Kristen Beavers, an assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University, told UPI.
"This suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to obesity management in older adults might not work," Beavers said.
More than one-third of all American adults aged 65 years and older report some degree of physical disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The risk for physical disability is higher for older adults who are overweight and obese, particularly among women and Black Americans, Beavers and her colleagues said.
Research suggests that getting older adults who are overweight and obese to lose weight can help improve their physical function -- including walking ability -- and minimize disability, they said.
However, Black Americans and men have historically been underrepresented in these studies, according to the JAMA Network Open researchers.
For this study, Beaver and her colleagues analyzed data from eight clinical trials, collectively enrolling 1,317 participants.
Participants -- 30% of whom were male and 21% of whom were Black Americans -- ranged in age from 62 to 72 years and had a body mass index, or BMI, that met the criteria for obesity, the researchers said
After six months, participants placed on calorie-restrictive diets lost an average of 7.7% of their body weight, with men and women losing about the same amount, the data showed.
However, women included in the analysis saw greater improvements in walking ability, balance, and leg strength than men. while Black Americans saw enhanced walking speeds compared to White Americans, according to the researchers.
"If an older adult is living with obesity, often weight loss, especially when coupled with exercise, can improve physical function," Beavers said.