CLINIC: My friends who carry extra weight worry about
following a healthy diet, especially as we get older. But
I’ve been thin my whole life and usually can eat anything
without gaining weight. Should I worry about my diet?
true that obesity is a risk factor for many health problems,
including high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids, Type 2
diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, most cancers,
obstructive sleep apnea and many others. However, being thin
doesn’t negate the need for a healthy diet.
health risks separate from body weight. Whether you’re thin
or not, diets high in saturated and trans fats, red and
processed meat, sodium, and refined carbohydrates — such as
the sugars in soda, baked goods and other foods — can raise
the risk of many health problems.
There are also
foods that decrease health risks independent of body weight.
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, fish and olive oil all
have been associated with increased longevity. They also are
associated with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Eating a variety of foods from these food groups will provide
many different nutrients that your body needs. Thin or not,
it’s especially important for older adults to be aware of
their nutritional needs, since aging can increase the risk of
In terms of
cardiovascular health, eating saturated and trans fats is
associated with undesirable cholesterol levels, and consuming
increased salt is associated with high blood pressure. A
recent study found that normal-weight older women with less
healthy, high-calorie diets had a 10 percent increased risk of
developing obesity-related cancers, compared with
normal-weight women who ate a healthier diet.
There are other
important factors to consider, including whether you smoke or
are physically active. While smokers tend to weigh less than
nonsmokers, their health risks are greater. Smoking not only
can lead to lung cancer, but also it raises the risk for a
number of other cancers. It also can lead to coronary artery
disease, stroke and chronic lung disease. On the other hand,
physical activity reduces a large number of health risks in
people whether they are thin or heavy, including decreased
risk of hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, abnormal blood lipids,
coronary artery disease, some cancers and depression.
beneficial lifestyle choices such as healthy eating, being
physically active and not smoking can lead to better health
and an overall improved quality of life for people who need to
lose weight and those who are already at a healthy weight.