Losing 5 per cent of body weight can make a lot of difference

Losing 5 per cent of body weight can make a lot of difference

We all know that losing weight is great for our health. But not many of us knew that losing only five per cent of our body weight can reap health benefits for us, says a study published in Cell Metabolism.

In an earlier take on weight loss, Dr. Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, stated that almost everyone should try to keep their BMI below 25. Also, keep in mind that most of the weight we gain in adulthood is fat. So unless you were clearly underweight at age 18 or 20, it is best not to gain more than 5 or 6 pounds after this age. For someone who is very overweight, it is usually not realistic to go all the way back to your weight at age 18; even a 5 to 10 percent weight loss has important health benefits.

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.

These results demonstrate you get a large bang for your buck with a 5% weight loss, says senior study author Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine. 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.

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.

Until now, no controlled weight loss trials 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.

Among the 19 individuals who lost 5% of their body weight, beta cell function improved significantly, as did insulin sensitivity in fat tissue, liver, and skeletal muscle. Meanwhile, the nine participants who achieved additional weight loss showed further improvements in beta cell function and insulin sensitivity in muscle tissue. Taken together, the findings show that 5% weight loss is sufficient to improve health outcomes, with additional weight loss further decreasing risk factors for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, Klein says.

According to the authors, future studies should evaluate the effect of progressive weight loss on other obesity-related complications, such as arthritis and lung disease. It will also be important to test whether the findings apply to people with diabetes and to examine the cellular basis for the observed therapeutic effects.

In the meantime, Klein hopes that this study will serve as a motivating force to help people achieve manageable weight loss goals.

Losing 5 per cent of body weight can make a lot of difference