Current guidelines when it comes to weight loss suggest that losing weight too quickly will result in gaining it back as opposed to losing weight at a slower, steady pace. However, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Melbourne, this may not be the case.
Researchers led by Dr. Joseph Proietto, Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne and Head of the Weight Control Clinic at Austin Health in Australia, randomly assigned 200 obese adults to a 12-week rapid weight loss (RWL) program or a 36-week gradual weight loss (GWL) program. Those in the RWL program consumed a low calorie diet consisting of 450-800 kcal/day while those in the GWL program reduced their energy intake by 500 kcal/day. Those participants in either group who lost over 12.5 percent of their body weight continued on to a three-year maintenance phase. Researchers found that 81 percent of those in the RWL program achieved target weight loss (over 12.5 percent of their body weight) while only 50 percent of those in the GWL group achieved this target. And following the maintenance phase, participants in both groups gained back about 71 percent of the weight they lost.
There may be several explanations for these results. Authors say that consuming low levels of carbohydrates may result in ketosis. In this process, the body burns fat leading to the production of ketones which in turn suppress hunger. This is in contrast with the normal state in which the body uses carbohydrates to provide the sugar needed to for energy. Another possibility is that the instant gratification resulting from rapid weight loss further motivates people to stay on these low calorie diets.
Dr. Corby Martin and Professor Kishore Gadde from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge say, Clinicians should bear in mind that different weight loss approaches might be suitable for different patients in the management of clinical obesity, and that efforts to curb the speed of initial weight loss might hinder their ultimate weight loss success.
ACSH s Ariel Savransky adds, As implied above, it s important that individuals consult with their doctors before beginning a weight loss plan so that they can lose weight safely. Furthermore, this study highlights the need to focus on the maintenance phase of weight loss. Although participants were able to lose significant amounts of weight during the weight loss phase, most participants gained back a significant amount. Weight loss interventions must target this phase to make sure that individuals have the tools and support they need to maintain weight loss.