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Obesity
Weight Loss

For the Obese, Just 5% Weight Loss = Significant Health Benefits

Those who struggle with obesity, take heart. Losing as little as 5% of your body weight is enough to reap significant health benefits, according to a study published February 22nd 2016 in Cell Metabolism. The randomized controlled trial of 40 obese men and women compared, for the first time, the health outcomes of 5%, 10%, and 15% weight loss. While additional weight loss further improved metabolic health, 5% weight loss was sufficient to reduce multiple risk factors for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

A release from the publisher quotes senior study author Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine as saying, “These results demonstrate you get a large bang for your buck with a 5% weight loss. Based on these findings, we should reconsider changing current obesity practice guidelines to stress a target goal of 5% weight loss, rather than 5% to 10% weight loss, which increases the perception of failure when patients do not achieve weight losses that are greater than 5%.”

Obesity is a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Most treatment guidelines, including those recently proposed by several major medical and scientific societies, recommend moderate weight loss of 5% to 10% to achieve improvements in metabolic function and health. “However, it is much easier to achieve a 5% weight loss than it is to achieve a 10% weight loss, so it is important to understand the health benefits that occur with a 5% weight loss and what additional benefits can be expected with more weight loss in people with obesity,” Klein says.

To date, several large randomized controlled weight loss trials have evaluated the effects of different amounts of weight loss on clinical outcomes. But until now, none have separated the weight loss outcomes in those who achieved 5% weight loss from those who achieved 10% weight loss. Klein and his team set out to address this question by randomly assigning 40 obese individuals to either maintain their body weight or go on a low-calorie diet to lose 5%, 10%, or 15% of their body weight.

Importantly, all of the study participants showed signs of insulin-resistant glucose metabolism–a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. When blood glucose levels rise after a meal, beta cells in the pancreas release a hormone called insulin into the blood, stimulating muscle, fat, and liver cells to take up the excess glucose. But in individuals with insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

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