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.