We covered a lot of the basic issues around sarcopenia (aka, “skinny fat”), the changes in body composition characterized by a loss of lean muscle and a gain of body fat, in our earlier article “Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Skinny Fat.” Take a read if you haven’t already, since it sets the context for our deep dive into the topic below — and is very important for ladies in particular, as we will see.
Art De Vany has been writing about this subject for years.
If you don’t know him, you should – in his mid-seventies, he is the author of “The New Evolution Diet” and one of the elder statesmen of the Paleo/Primal movement. He has also been practicing what he preaches from a dietary and exercise standpoint for nearly forty years.
He summarizes a lot of the scientific research around sarcopenia in a series of blog posts entitled “The Fundamental Dynamic of Life”:
Similar to men, women lose lean tissue and gain fat at different rates as they age. The big change occurs in the 5 years after a woman turns 31. At this age and over the follow-up period of 5 years, there is a large gain in fat (of 30+ pounds on average for the large sample of 406 women) and a significant loss of lean tissue of more than 15 pounds. The net gain is about 15 pounds of body weight, fat and lean combined.
You can see that it is not so meaningful to only consider body weight as one ages. The net gain in weight comes at the expense of more than 15 pounds of lean tissue.It is more meaningful to measure body composition rather than weight, particularly the active parts of the body such as muscle, skeletal, organ, neural and other masses.
It is NOT meaningful to measure total body weight and I consider it unfounded and misleading to tell someone they ought to lose weight or to advise them to go on a diet that chronically restricts their food intake. Only a sophisticated chronic underfeeding regimen can be successful, with complete nutrition, and the evidence tells me that carbohydrate restriction without calorie restriction is as successful.
Why is Your Body Trying to Become Skinny Fat? It Is Evolution At Work
Everything about Art’s work is viewed through an evolutionary prism. In an earlier post on this topic, he discusses this:
[T]he genetic expressions that support reproduction are not strongly selected in post-reproductive years to keep you alive. Your genes may turn against you because their job is to prepare you for reproduction rather than survival beyond that age. Once you reproduce and raise your last group of children, evolution has done its job. …
You progressively gain fat and lose lean until you die. There is a catastrophic loss of lean tissue for women at 50 years of age and a simultaneous loss of lean and fat at age 75 or 80.Whether via a single traumatic illness (e.g., cancer) or a progressive effect over decades of neglect, when you have lost 40 to 50% of the lean tissue you had in your youth, you will die.
This starts earlier for men at the age of 50, with a catastrophic loss of lean at 75 years. The pattern holds for all non-humans as well. Once you hit an age where you lose both fat and lean tissue weight, there is no turning back.
A progressive loss of lean leading into a catastrophic loss of lean and fat signals the end is near.