Apparently, when it comes to weight loss, those with much to lose should think big!
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) just finished a study in collaboration with the American Cancer Society that showed that obese and overweight people who lost more than 20% of their body weight scored big, at least when it comes to their potential for good metabolic health. The study was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
With about 2/3 of the US population overweight or obese, the risk of “Syndrome X,” or metabolic syndrome, is a real problem. While weight loss can help prevent or reverse Syndrome X, it seems how much weight one loses also plays a role.
Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of 3 of the following 5 medical conditions:
- Abdominal obesity
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- High serum triglycerides
- Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels
It’s been associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. It’s connected as well to insulin resistance and prediabetes, sharing aspects with these other metabolic conditions.
If left unchecked, Syndrome X can progress to diabetes, liver disease, ovarian disease in women and erectile dysfunction in men. It absolutely increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, too.
Diet, stress and activity levels seem to be the primary contributing factors. Coincidentally, those are all contributing factors to overweight and obesity. Poor diet, lack of activity and chronic stress will absolutely lead to overweight and obesity, not to mention being miserable.
The study used data from 7,670 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. This studied their weight history along with the results from physical exams, including waist size, blood sugar and cholesterol levels in order to assess metabolic health.
“Losers” who dropped between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight saw their risk of metabolic syndrome cut by 22 percent. Pretty solid.
Those who lost more than 20 percent of their body weight, however, earned themselves a 53 percent reduction in the risk of acquiring Syndrome X. Fantastic!
Greg Knell, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, said “If you’re overweight or obese, even losing just a little is better than none. But the rewards appear to be greater for those who manage to lose more. The evidence to date suggests that a 5 to 10 percent weight loss for those with excess weight is beneficial to one’s health. A higher level could potentially lead to lower cardiometabolic risk.”
However, the realities of weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight intruded on this study, just as they do for all of us. In spite of best efforts, nearly 2/3 (62 percent) of participants were unable to lose just 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. That amount is the target the American Heart Association sets for adults with excess weight.
5 percent of the participants managed to lose 20 percent of their body weight, while 19 percent reached the 20+ percent goal.
“Since weight loss is so difficult, a 5 to 10 percent weight loss for those with excess weight should be the target. This should be done gradually through following a healthy lifestyle with guidance from experts, such as your primary care provider,” said Knell.
While I espouse an approach targeting the loss of body fat rather than simply weight loss, it’s easy to get behind this research and appreciate the enormity of a 53 percent reduction in the risk of metabolic syndrome and metabolic diseases.
The goal of any weight loss or fat loss program should be to achieve the target while creating a sustainable program. If healthy habits are created, they will be maintained. When extremes are used to achieve rapid weight or fat loss, they can rarely be maintained. When this happens, rebounding weight gain occurs.
So if you’re overweight or obese, the message is simple. Think big, act sustainably and get started TODAY!
Keep the faith and keep after it!