Scientists find secrets to long-term weight loss success

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A new study is underway to investigate why some individuals successfully maintain long-term weight loss while others struggle to do so.

Led by researchers at Columbia University, the study will examine over 100 people with obesity who successfully lose weight through diet and exercise, and then track their progress over time.

“Keeping weight off after losing it is a significant challenge due to biological adaptations that reduce metabolism, curb activity, and increase appetite,” says Rudolph Leibel, MD, from Columbia University, one of the principal investigators of the study.

“The weight-reduced body thinks it’s starving and so deploys these mechanisms to conserve energy.”

The team will explore these biological adaptations and why some individuals can overcome them to maintain weight loss.

The study will examine everything from fat cells to neural activity in the brain, incorporating advanced measurements of body composition, energy expenditure, physical activity, sleep quality, and food choice assessments.

MRI scans will be used to monitor neural activity, while blood, muscle, and fat samples will track cellular changes.

The research, known as the Physiology of the Weight Reduced State (POWERS) study, is being conducted in collaboration with Drexel University, Tufts University, and the University of Pennsylvania, and initiated by the National Institutes of Health.

It will involve participants who lose at least 7% of their body weight over five months under a supervised diet and exercise program, with a follow-up period of an additional 12 months.

“Even modest reductions in weight, if sustained over time, can have significant beneficial effects on health,” says Leibel.

“We hope this study will help us develop better methods to support long-term success in maintaining reduced body weight.”

This study signifies a pivotal shift in weight loss research, as it goes beyond mere weight loss to focus on understanding the complex biological and behavioral aspects that drive long-term weight maintenance.

It is hoped the findings could lead to more personalized and effective weight loss strategies in the future.

If you care about weight loss, please read studies that hop extract could reduce belly fat in overweight people, and early time-restricted eating could help lose weight.

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

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