In a new study from the University of Copenhagen, researchers found for the first time how it is possible for people with obesity to maintain long-term weight loss.
They found a highly effective treatment after a diet-induced weight-loss, by combining moderate to vigorous-intensive exercise with appetite-inhibiting obesity medication, an analog to the appetite-inhibiting hormone GLP-1.
Worldwide, almost 40% of people have overweight and 13% live with obesity.
Weight regain after an initially successful weight loss in people with obesity, constitutes an important and unsolved problem.
Until now, no well-documented study on which treatment method is best for maintaining a healthy weight loss has been available.
In the study, 215 people with obesity and low fitness initially followed a low-calorie diet over eight weeks, where they each lost approximately 13 kg.
This brought significant improvements to their health with a drop in blood sugar level and blood pressure.
The participants were then divided into four groups. Two of the groups received placebo medication, while the two other groups received obesity medication.
Among the two placebo groups, one group followed an exercise program of a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity at moderate intensity or 75 minutes at vigorous intensity during the week or a combination of the two, while the other group maintained their current level of physical activity.
The two groups receiving obesity medication were similarly divided into one group with and one group without an exercise program.
After one year, the group with exercise alone and the group with obesity medication alone maintained the weight loss of 13 kg and health improvements.
The most dramatic improvements occurred in the combination group, which followed the exercise program and received obesity medication.
The researchers found additional weight loss in this group, and the total weight loss was approximately 16 kg over one year.
The health benefits were also double that of each of the single treatments, i.e., twice the loss of fat mass while preserving muscle mass, higher fitness ratings, reduced blood sugar and improved quality of life.
The two groups that exercised increased their fitness rating, lost fat mass and gained muscle mass. This could indicate a healthier weight loss than for people, who had only lost fat mass without increasing the fitness rating.
The findings suggest that a significant weight loss can be maintained with exercise for approximately 115 minutes per week performed mostly at a vigorous intensity, such as cycling.
And that by combining exercise with obesity medication, the effect can be better.
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The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine. One author of the study is Professor Signe Torekov.
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