Weight loss may boost health even if you regain some weight

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A new analysis of more than 100 studies has found that people who lost weight through an intensive behavioral weight loss program saw significant health benefits, even if they later regained some weight.

The study showed that individuals who went through an intensive weight loss program experienced better results for blood pressure, cholesterol, and an indicator of diabetes for at least five years, compared with those who did not participate in such a program.

The fear of regaining weight has been a significant barrier to offering support to people looking to lose weight, as many doctors and patients believe that regaining weight renders their efforts pointless.

However, new research at the University of Oxford offers reassurance that weight loss programs are effective in controlling cardiovascular risk factors and are likely to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Obese and overweight individuals are at increased risk for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease.

They are also at risk for insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.

Behavioral weight loss programs can help people lose weight by encouraging lifestyle and behavior changes, such as eating healthy foods and increasing physical activity.

In the study, the researchers combined the results of 124 studies, which included over 50,000 participants with an average follow-up of 28 months.

They found that weight loss across the different studies ranged from 5 to 10 pounds on average.

Weight regain averaged from about a quarter to three-fourths of a pound in a year. Participants who lost weight through an intensive program were compared with people in a less intensive or no program.

On average, in the intensive group, systolic blood pressure was 1.5 mmHg lower at one year, and 0.4 mmHg lower at five years.

The percentage of HbA1c, a protein in red blood cells used to test for diabetes, was reduced by 0.26 at both one and five years. The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (“good”) cholesterol was 1.5 points lower after one year and five years.

The team says for people with overweight or obesity issues, losing weight is an effective way to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A preliminary finding showed that the decreased risk of being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes appeared to remain lower even after weight regain.

However, few studies followed people for more than five years, and more information is needed to confirm whether this potential benefit persists.

The researchers acknowledged limitations, including that research published after 2019 was not included in the review.

An accompanying editorial commended the work and emphasized that much remains to be understood about various weight loss interventions.

The editorial noted that behavioral weight loss programs constitute the backbone of weight management in clinical practice but often are resource-intensive, and emerging medication therapies are expensive.

What is still unknown is whether these temporary improvements in weight and cardiometabolic risk factors after weight loss intervention (behavioral or pharmacological) lead to long-term clinical benefits.

Overall, the study’s findings suggest that an intensive behavioral weight loss program can lead to significant health benefits for obese and overweight individuals.

Although weight regains may occur after such programs, the study suggests that the benefits of weight loss are not necessarily nullified by weight regain.

If you care about weight loss, please read about studies about popular weight loss diets linked to heart disease and cancer, and this exercise has unique benefits for weight loss.

For more information about weight loss, please see recent studies that Mediterranean diet can reduce belly fat much better, and Keto diet could help control body weight and blood sugar in diabetes.

The study was conducted by Susan A. Jebb et al and published in journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

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