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01 Sep 2021
No excuses for that middle-aged spread, according to new research
By Tom Walker
No excuses for that middle-aged spread, according to new research
There's no significant change in metabolism between the ages of 20 and 60
Photo: Shutterstock/4 PM production
The basal metabolic rate at which a body burns calories peaks at a much earlier age than previously thought, according to new research.

The study, called ​​Daily energy expenditure through the human life course, published in the journal Science, analysed a large, diverse database of males and females aged 8 days to 95 years in 29 countries.

The findings cast new light on human development and the ageing process and could help create more targeted nutrition and health strategies.

Among the most unexpected findings is that metabolism peaks around the age of one.

After age one, the metabolism shifts from being the same as the mother's, "gently slowing down" until the age of 20.

The study suggests that there is no spike during all the changes of puberty and – perhaps most surprisingly – no significant change between the ages of 20 and 60, when it declines

This suggests that there is no significant change throughout adulthood, so those "piling on the pounds" in mid-life can no longer blame a slowing metabolism.

The study reads: "Total expenditure increased with fat-free mass in a power-law manner, with four distinct life stages.

"Fat-free mass–adjusted expenditure accelerates rapidly in neonates to around 50 per cent above adult values at age one.

"It then declines slowly to adult levels by 20 years of age and remains stable in adulthood (20 to 60 years), even during pregnancy; then declines in older adults.

"These changes shed light on human development and aging and should help shape nutrition and health strategies across the life span."

To access and read the full study, click here.

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