It is a fact that the average young US adult gains 30 pounds by the time they reach 50 years of age. Middle age spread, also commonly referred to as “middle-age weight gain” or “middle-age spread,” is a colloquial term used to describe the tendency for people, typically in their 30s to 50s, to gain weight and develop a thicker waistline as they age. This phenomenon is often attributed to various factors, including changes in metabolism, hormonal fluctuations, lifestyle changes, and a decrease in physical activity.
Scientist Dr. Jay H. Chung and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health claim that they have discovered the biological changes that lead to this weight gain phenomenon, also called middle-age spread. Their study reveals that an enzyme called DNA-PK (DNA-dependent protein kinase) slows down your metabolism. This makes fat harder to burn.
The researchers found that until middle age, the muscles of mice and donkeys don’t show much DNA-PK. However, the enzyme’s activity spiked in middle age.
The researchers then blocked the activity of the enzyme to know whether it can promote fat burning. They used drugs for this purpose. When fed a high-fat diet, obese mice that received the drug didn’t gain as much weight as other mice and were also protected from type 2 diabetes. In addition, the drug also improved the fitness level of obese and middle-aged mice.
Chung says “Our society attributes the weight gain and lack of exercise in middle life (30 to 60 years) primarily to poor lifestyle choices and a lack of willpower. But this study shows that there is a generic program driven by an overactive enzyme that promotes weight gain and loss of exercise capacity at mid-life.”
Note: The drug used in this study is yet to be tested on humans. It might work for people, or it could have serious side effects. We don’t know. More research is needed to shed light on this question.
It’s important to note that middle age spread is not an inevitable outcome of aging. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, a balanced diet, stress management, and sufficient sleep, individuals can mitigate the effects of middle age spread and maintain a healthy weight as they age.