Metabolism, at what age does it start to slow down and why?

Responds to Professor Sabrina Corbetta, endocrinologist at the Galeazzi-Sant’Ambrogio Hospital in Milan and associate professor of Endocrinology at the University of Milan

Maria Elena Perrero

Years go by and changes the metabolism. Or not? That less energy burns with age is a widespread belief. But how much is it true? “Age affects the slowing of metabolism, but it is not a continuous process ”, explains a Official Active Professor Sabrina Corbetta, head of the Endocrinology and Diabetology Service of the IRCCS Galeazzi-Sant’Ambrogio Hospital in Milan and associate professor of Endocrinology at the University of Milan.

At what age does the metabolism start to slow down?

There are in fact specific moments in life in which the metabolism undergoes gods slowdowns. “As babies we have a very high metabolism because we have to grow – explains Professor Corbetta -. The metabolism, in fact, is the consumption of energy to guarantee our vital functions. For this reason, up to two years of life there are very high metabolic levels, since new tissues have to be generated. Metabolism remains elevated throughout childhood and puberty to early adulthood. I remember that the pubertal period, which begins with the menarche in the female and with the appearance of the beard in the male, is only completed around the age of 20-22, while the development of the skeleton is completed around the age of 25. Once fully mature, the metabolism stabilizes at specific levels for each individual ”.

What affects the metabolism

To affect the metabolismHowever, in addition to age, there are several factors. “There are genetic factors which we do not yet know well, but which are decisive and on which it is difficult to influence. And then there are hormonal factors”, Clarifies the endocrinologist. Due to the role of hormonal factors in women, another moment of great variation in metabolism is the menopause, around the age of 50, generally: “Female sex hormones, the estrogen, they do everything to keep a woman ready for pregnancy, leading, around the age of 20, to accumulations of fat as energy supplies in the hips, buttocks and breasts. During the pregnancy metabolism accelerates a lot because it has to fulfill many functions. Between the ages of 20 and 50, therefore, a woman’s metabolism is more or less stationary, while after the age of 50 it slows down. The elimination of estrogen leads to a conversion of the female phenotype into a male phenotype, with a redistribution of fat in the abdominal area, with visceral but also subcutaneous fat. A similar slowdown in metabolism also occurs in humans starting from 50 years, as also in humans the levels of sex hormones (testosterone) are reduced “.

Metabolism: the role of sex, muscle mass and cortisol

To affect the metabolism between 20 and 50 years they are nutrition, physical activity, muscle mass and other hormones, explains Professor Corbetta. “Thyroid hormones and cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, in particular, are involved in the regulation of metabolism. Therefore, stress and lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. The only good stress for the human body, in fact, is the contingent, momentary one, while chronic stress can result in overweight and obesity. It should also be considered that over time there is a decline ingrowth hormone (GH or somatotropin), which is important in adulthood for maintaining the health of skeletal muscles. The physiological loss, from the age of 40 onwards, of skeletal muscle mass is linked to this decline. In general, however, it should be remembered that a good presence of muscle mass leads to consuming more even at rest. And it should not be forgotten that, physiologically, men have a basal metabolic rate (therefore in conditions of rest) genetically higher than that of women by about 20%, even outside the pubertal age “.

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