Would You Gain Weight to Look Younger?

Does being too thin in midlife give you an older appearance? According to a 2009 study, it may be. The study asked an independent panel to look at photos of female twins and judge each twin on her appearance. Among other differences, women over the age of 40 who had heavier body weights than their twins were judged to be younger. The researchers posited that being too thin in midlife can result in a more aged appearance due to fat loss in the face.

Dr. Craig Vander Kolk, a plastic surgeon at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, doesn't advocate putting on weight for the sole purpose of filling out your face. "The scientific reason for why people say this is that we lose subcutaneous fat in the face as we age," he says. Conservatively gaining some weight—maybe five pounds—is not going to hurt. However, he points out that there's a good chance any weight you add will end up settling in places other than your face.

Instead of randomly packing on pounds, Dr. Vander Kolk recommends directly targeting the problem instead of randomly putting on pounds. Fillers and injectibles can smooth out wrinkles and folds, but for skin that's actually sagging, surgery may be an option. The procedure uses fat harvested from a patient's abdomen or, less commonly, thigh or flank. "Repositioning tissue or adding fat into certain areas can be advantageous," he says. Compared to the use of body fat in facial surgery with fillers, fat is a lot more economical. "It can be a permanent change, it's more natural, and I can use a lot of it," says Vander Kolk.

Fat contains stem cells and therefore can help correct acne scarring and smoking damage, explains Vander Kolk. He's currently at the forefront of new facial-grafting technologies that are being deployed to help take advantage of the stem cells in body fat.

The bottom line? If you feel your face looks drawn or gaunt, don't reach for the donuts. Instead, talk to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon about the best options that will help you maintain a pleasing face and a trim figure.

Craig A. Vanger Kolk, MD, reviewed this article.