Obese people often struggle for years to lose weight. The problem: Even if a diet has been successful, it is difficult to maintain the weight you have achieved. The notorious yo-yo effect usually hits mercilessly. Danish researchers are now showing strategies for tricking the body and maintaining weight after a diet.
Dieting is a booming business, playing on the desperation and hope of the overweight. The problem with diets: Mostly they rely on a radical calorie reduction. Not surprisingly, this leads to a quickly visible success in almost everyone. However, it is neither healthy nor feasible to eat a diet that is severely calorie-reduced and one-sided for a lifetime. And so, sooner or later, you fall back into your old eating habits. The starved body wants to store energy in the form of fat and releases more appetite-stimulating hormones. This leads to the so-called yo-yo effect, i.e. the return of the fat deposits. A Danish study has now found out how to break this vicious circle and maintain your weight after a diet.
Four strategies compared to keep the weight off
Danish researchers from the University of Copenhagen, together with the Hvidovre Hospital, examined four different treatment approaches for permanent weight loss in their study.1 They wanted to know which of the four methods works best for weight maintenance after a diet. To do this, they selected 215 subjects for the study, all of whom were obese and had low fitness levels. Participants were placed on a calorie-restricted diet for eight weeks. They lost an average of 13 kilograms in weight. At the same time, their health values improved after the diet: Both the blood sugar levels and blood pressure were lower.
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After the diet, the subjects were divided into four groups
- Group 1: Subjects receive placebo drug but no exercise program
- Group 2: Subjects receive placebo medication and an exercise program (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise and/or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week)
- Group 3: Subjects are given appetite suppressants but no exercise program
- Group 4: Subjects receive appetite suppressants and an exercise program (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise and/or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week)
The appetite suppressant was liraglutide, which lowers blood sugar and reduces hunger pangs. It is a drug modeled after the appetite-suppressing hormone GLP-1. The drug is mostly used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus and to lose weight if you are severely overweight.
After being divided into groups, all participants were observed over a period of one year. Their weight was logged monthly and they received nutritional advice in line with Danish Health Authority guidelines.
Exercise with an appetite suppressant works best
After a year, the scientists evaluated all the data collected. They found that both group 2 (more exercise) as well group 3 (appetite suppressants) were able to maintain their weight after the diet. Health values also remained stable. the Group 1 (Placebo, no extra movement), on the other hand, performed worst. These subjects regained around half the weight they had lost and had deteriorated health.
Best cut group 4 (more exercise and appetite suppressants). The participants were not only able to maintain their weight, but also to reduce it even further. Immediately after the diet it was 13 kilograms less, after a year even 16 kilograms less. In addition, the health values improved. Compared to groups 2 and 3, fat loss was twice as high and muscle mass was retained.
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“It’s great news that significant weight loss can be sustained by about 150 minutes of exercise per week, if it’s done primarily at high intensity, such as cycling,” says Professor Signe Torekov, who led the study. By combining exercise with an appetite suppressant, the effect is even twice as strong compared to individual treatment with training or medication, adds the scientist.