New research shows that sustained weight loss is possible if a person can maintain the weight lost for a year.
Weight loss is a complex process. In a new study, researchers discovered sustained weight loss in obesity is especially complicated. Their new findings help give overweight people a clearer understanding of how to sustain weight loss.
“This study shows that if an overweight person is able to maintain an initial weight loss — in this case for a year — the body will eventually ‘accept’ this new weight and thus not fight against it, as is otherwise normally the case when you are in a calorie-deficit state,” said University of Copenhagen associate professor Dr. Signe Sorensen Torekov.
The main finding in the study is that after one year of successful weight loss maintenance, the levels of two appetite inhibiting hormones, GLP-1 and PYY, increased from before-weight loss levels. In other words, a person’s desire for food — the hunger level — decreased.
This is in contrast to the stimulation of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which occurs immediately after weight loss. The activity of hunger hormones also returned to normal levels after one year, resulting in lower levels of hunger.
This demonstrates that the hormones GLP-1 and PYY are able to adjust to a new ‘set point’ and thus may facilitate the continuation of a new and lower body weight.
“We know that obese people have low levels of the appetite inhibiting hormone GLP-1. The good thing is that now we are able to show that you can actually increase the levels of this hormone as well as the appetite inhibiting hormone PYY by weight loss and that the levels are kept high when you maintain your weight loss for a year,” said first author and doctoral student Eva Winning Iepsen.
This results in increased appetite inhibition, meaning that people don’t feel hungry and so aren’t as interested in eating.
Researchers followed 20 healthy but obese individuals during an 8-week low-calorie powder diet. The participants lost on average 13 percent of their body weight. After the initial weight loss, the participants entered a 52-week weight maintenance protocol, which consisted of regular meetings with a clinical dietitian with instructions on lifestyle changes as well as diet calendar tracking.
In case of weight gain, the participants could replace up to two meals per day with a low-calorie diet product.
During the study period, the participants completed three meal tests: before weight loss, immediately after weight loss and after 52 weeks of weight loss maintenance, where blood samples were collected after fasting as well as after eating and subsequently analyzed.
“The interesting and uplifting news in this study is that if you are able to maintain your weight loss for a longer period of time, it seems as if you have ‘passed the critical point’, and after this point, it will actually become easier for you to maintain your weight loss than is was immediately after the initial weight loss.”
“Thus, the body is no longer fighting against you, but actually with you, which is good news for anyone trying to lose weight,” said Torekov.
The research is published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.