Experts have welcomed newly published research that shows how weight loss can be maintained, without dieters inevitably regaining their original weight, by dieting for a year.
They say the breakthrough study by the University of Copenhagen into hormonal adaptions to weight loss sheds light on how weight loss with formula diets may help address the UK’s escalating diabetes and obesity problem, by showing it takes 12 months of dieting before the body’s chemicals change and a new weight can be permanently maintained.
The study showed that healthy, but obese, people put on a Cambridge Weight Plan 810 calorie formula diet for eight weeks lost 13 percent of their weight and kept the weight off after a 52 week maintenance formula diet.
The study looked at hormonal changes associated with effective long-term weight loss and feelings of fullness and allowed researchers new insights into the complex processes involved in obesity and especially weight loss in obesity.
Researchers in Denmark have found that obese people who had shed an eighth of their weight on an intensive diet and then kept it off for a year saw dramatic changes in the chemicals governing their appetites.
Professor Leeds, medical director of Cambridge Weight Plan said: “This shows for the first time that if enough weight is lost and kept off for long enough then the body seems to adjust to the lower weight and does not fight to try to regain it.
“This has very important implications for considering the use of formula diet programmes in community settings and GP practices as a way to combat obesity.”
“Since we now have good evidence that people can lose about ten percent of their body weight, usually about one and a half stone, and maintain that, it helps to have evidence that explains how weight loss is maintained.”
“Weight maintenance can be achieved by a permanent change in diet and eating behaviour and by physical activity, but not everyone can do this using conventional diet and keep the weight off, so this study reinforces the value of formula diets.”
Associate Professor Signe Sørensen Torekov from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, said: “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 it 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.
“We were able to show that you shouldn’t give up. If you’re able to keep your weight down for a year, then it shifts and becomes easier.”
“Other clinical trials are addressing the question of whether a ten percent weight loss with a total diet replacement of formula foods for eight weeks can prevent diabetes if followed by an effective weight loss strategy,” continued Professor Leeds.
“This new paper from Copenhagen encourages us to believe that we’re on the right path, when Britain is facing the risk of another million people with diabetes in 20 years’ time. Losing enough weight is known to be the key component of diabetes prevention programmes, an essential requirement for early diabetes reversal and for improving more advanced diabetes.”
Professor Gary Frost, who studies how people with diabetes can successfully lose weight at Imperial College London also welcomed the study: “Getting the right amount of weight loss to reverse early diabetes or improve more advanced diabetes is important. Just a few pounds won’t do. The right amount of change can be delivered initially with formula diet, followed by carefully managed re-introduction of conventional foods.
“I am convinced that when doctors and dietitians become familiar with how to help people through these impressive weight losses this will become a standard option within health care services on a global scale.”
The study findings were recently published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.
The main finding in the study revealed that after one year of successful weight loss maintenance, the researchers were able to demonstrate that postprandial levels of two appetite inhibiting hormones (GLP-1 and PYY) increased (=appetite inhibition) from before-weight loss level – in contrast to the hunger hormone ghrelin, which increased immediately after weight loss but returned to normal levels (= low hunger) after one year. 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 (=increased appetite inhibition) when you maintain your weight loss for a year,” adds first author of the study MD and PhD student Eva Winning Iepsen
Cambridge Weight Plan is an evidence-based formula diet programme that delivers safe weight loss and maintenance at greater rates than occurs after conventional diet. Gold-standard clinical trials have shown weight loss and maintenance of about 10kg (10 per cent) of body weight for four years in elderly obese people with knee osteoarthritis with reduced pain and improved cardiovascular profiles maintained for at least one year. Similar findings have been shown in men with moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnoea, in women following heart attack and in people with psoriasis. Studies to demonstrate prevention of diabetes and reversal of early diabetes are underway. A recent presentation in Britain showed that a weight loss of 10kg in those with obesity and insulin treated type 2 diabetes can improve blood glucose control and reduce insulin dose. Four out of 10 participants were able to stop taking insulin.