Losing weight—and keeping it off—may protect your heart and metabolic function

In a new study, researchers found people who lose weight and keep it off can stabilize or even improve their cardio-metabolic risk factors compared to people who regain the weight.

The research was led by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

The study used data from the Look AHEAD trial, a multi-center controlled clinical trial assessing the association between weight loss and cardiovascular disease risk in individuals with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The team found after a successful one-year intensive lifestyle weight-loss intervention, maintaining the weight loss (as opposed to regaining it) was better for all cardiometabolic risk factors assessed three years later, including HDL cholesterol, triglyceride, fasting glucose and glycated hemoglobin concentrations, blood pressure, and waist circumference.

In contrast, regaining weight was associated with a reversal of the benefits seen from losing weight.

The team says that if people lose weight and maintain the weight loss for a long period of time, the benefits can continue. Sometimes, the benefits get even stronger.

If people lose weight and don’t maintain it, the benefits are diminished or disappear.

These findings emphasize the dual importance of not only achieving a healthy body weight but maintaining healthy body weight.

The team says what scientists need to focus on now is how to support not only healthy approaches to losing weight but healthy approaches to helping those who are successful in losing weight maintain weight loss.

The latter may be the most challenging.

One author of the study is Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutrition scientist, and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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