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“Aging makes you fat”: Scientists have discovered a new reason why we gain excess weight as we age

Date: July 13, 2024 Time: 19:47:06

With age, after 50-55 years, almost all people gain weight. The lucky ones manage to get away with a couple of extra kilos, but most gain much more weight. And everyone unanimously admits it: staying slim and losing extra pounds is becoming more difficult every year. Until now, it was considered that the main cause of this unpleasant phenomenon was age-related hormonal changes. A change in lifestyle can also influence (the older you get, the more you want peace, the harder it is to force yourself to move), the appearance of chronic diseases. But in addition to these known factors, there seems to be another very influential actor in our body. This hypothesis was proposed by Chinese scientists from Xiamen University (Xiamen, Fujian province, China). The experts published the results of their study in the international medical journal International Immunopharmacology.


A team of researchers decided to take a closer look at the role of interleukin-6 (IL-6). It is one of the key molecules of the immune system. Today, the data on its influence on various processes in the body are very contradictory, point out the authors of the scientific work.

Thus, IL-6 in the muscles increases the release of the hormone, so glucose is better utilized. That’s an advantage. But in the liver, interleukin-6, on the other hand, tends to cause damage by promoting inflammation. In addition, when studying the condition of people with cancer, it turned out that IL-6 promotes cachexia, that is, dangerous weight loss and exhaustion. This happens due to excessive stimulation of the breakdown of adipose tissue. But when employees at Xiamen University began tracking the behavior of interleukin-6 in older people, they couldn’t believe their eyes. Apparently, in old age, a mysterious molecule inhibits fat burning! And it contributes to excessive weight gain, the researchers said with astonishment.


We are used to hearing that research is first done on laboratory mice. And only then can it reach a person. But in this case it was the other way around. The fact is that scientists have noticed a certain trend in people. From this a hypothesis was proposed. And to prove it, they carried out an experiment on experimental animals.

The work began with a study of hospitalized patients with type 2 diabetes aged 65 and older. A third of them had the highest levels of interleukin-6. And these same people turned out to have the record for the amount of so-called visceral fat. It envelops the internal organs and, in case of excess, prevents their normal functioning.

Until now, the main cause of age-related excess weight was considered to be age-related hormonal changes.

Photo: Shutterstock

But what is the cause and what is the effect? In principle, it is known that adipose tissue itself can cause inflammation. And interleukin-6 is actively involved in inflammatory processes. That is, on the one hand, it is logical to assume that IL-6 is off the charts in patients due to the fact that they are overweight. However, given the mysterious molecule’s controversial influence on various processes (see above), scientists began to think. Is everything suddenly not so simple? And we started testing on mice.

This is what the experiments showed:

1. With age, the concentration of IL-6 in the body increases. The rate was higher in older mice than in young mice. At the same time, the weight is higher (as in people over 50-55 years old).

2. If you make a genetic modification – deactivate the production of IL-6, weight gain with age is significantly reduced.

3. Analysis at a deep genetic-molecular level confirmed it: interleukin-6 really inhibits fat burning. And contributes to its accumulation. At least in older people.


First of all, this is an important step in the study of two great phenomena that humanity has long tried to understand. Namely: how our immune system works (there are still more questions than answers!) and what happens as the body ages. In particular, there is a hypothesis that wilting is associated with the development of a special immune reaction – latent systemic inflammation. Gerontologists call this “inflammatory”: from the words inflammation (inflammation) + aging (aging). Interleukin-6, which was studied in a new study, is one of the participants in this inflammatory process.

Secondly, the work of Chinese scientists is aimed at finding ways to effectively combat excess weight, which increases with age. And the goal here is not just aesthetic. “Visceral obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular complications and shortens life,” the researchers write. This means that getting rid of the fatty burden will increase the chances of a healthy and fit longevity.

In this case, of course, one cannot speak of completely turning off the production of IL-6 in humans (as was the case in the experiment with mice). The action of this molecule is too multifaceted and the consequences of its exposure are unpredictable, experts warn. However, the more we learn about certain processes, the greater the opportunities to create effective and at the same time safe approaches.


How to help yourself now

Of course, at any age, moderate exercise and a healthy diet are helpful in maintaining a normal weight, doctors say. In addition, it is important to take measures to reduce age-related systemic inflammation (unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to completely eliminate it), said the gerontologist scientist, director of the Institute of Biology of Aging at Nizhny Novgorod State University. member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Telegram presenter in an interview with the KP.RU channel “The Path of the Centenary” Alexey Moskalev. According to the expert, the following help reduce inflammation:

– treatment of chronic diseases, mainly hypertension, diabetes, gum diseases, etc.;

– vaccination and protection against infections through sanitary measures (for example, use of respirators in public places during ARVI and Covid);

– stress reduction – with the help of special techniques, psychotherapy, medications;

– support of intestinal microflora. To do this, Professor Moskalev advises including dietary fiber in the menu every day. Its sources are whole grains (brown rice, barley, oats), legumes, herbs, vegetables and unsweetened fruits.

According to data from a new study, these measures, by reducing inflammation, can help reduce the production of that same molecule interleukin-6. This means that there are possibilities to fight age-related weight gain more successfully.


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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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