A New Study Dispels The Myths Around Ageing, Menopause And Metabolism - Women's Health

A New Study Dispels The Myths Around Ageing, Menopause And Metabolism

It turns out everything we thought we knew about metabolism might just be wrong.

To reflect back on our youth is to remember a time where parties were judged solely for the party bag’s given out upon leaving, and the school commute saw newsagents and train station stalls raided for their lollies. This was a time where sweets were eaten by the handful and soda guzzled at will, with no care for the nutritional content. While growing up certainly allowed us to hone healthier habits, it also seemed to come with the knowledge that we had to eat healthier, because our metabolism wasn’t what it once was. 

Conventional thinking has it that past your 20s, metabolism slows down, especially around middle age. On top of this, it’s also believed women have slower metabolisms than men, which is why we have a harder time controlling our weight. Throw in things like menopause and your menstrual cycle, and women’s metabolisms slow even more. 

Well, it might be time to ditch such thinking. According to a new study published in Science, it appears our understanding of metabolism for all this time has been wrong. Using data from nearly 6,500 people, ranging in age from 8 days to 95 years, researchers discovered that there are four distinct periods of life, as far as metabolism is concerned. They also found that metabolism really doesn’t vary that much between men and women if some factors are controlled. 

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Not surprisingly, scientists are now calling it a “pivotal paper”, as the New York Times reports. One professor admitted to be “blown away” by its findings, and claimed that many will now have to revise some of their ideas. The study involved more than 80 co-authors on the subject of metabolism and combined efforts from a half dozen labs collected across 40 years. Where most research into metabolism is expensive, this strategy allowed the study’s authors to ask general questions about changes in metabolism over a lifetime. 

Central to their findings was that metabolism differs for all people across four distinct stages of life. Up until age 1, infancy sees calorie burning at its peak, accelerating until it is 50 per cent above the adult rate. From age 1 to 20, metabolism gradually slows by about 3 per cent a year. From age 20 to 60, it holds steady. And, after age 60, it declines by about 0.7 per cent a year. When researchers controlled for body size and the amount of muscle people have, they also found no differences between men and women. Researchers found no decline in metabolic rate for women when in their 40s, or with the onset of menopause. 

Still, as one researcher who was not involved with the publication admitted, the basic principles of weight gain are simple: people are eating more calories than they are burning. Regardless of metabolism and new data, at the end of the day you should be fuelling your body appropriate to your dietary and energy needs. 

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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