Weight Loss Maintained Through Regular Exercise and Diet

Earlier studies have shown that efforts to lose weight help factors that affect metabolic syndrome – a collection of risk factors including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol. However, these risk factors return when the lost weight is regained. This study was conducted to see if exercise can help maintain the weight loss benefits to metabolic syndrome, even after the lost weight is regained. Researchers conclude that “aerobic exercise can counter the detrimental effects of partial weight regain” in patients with metabolic syndrome.

Obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure are linked entities that often coexist in a condition called metabolic syndrome, which has already cost over $80 million in medical expenses in the US. Weight loss brought about by dieting or by exercise reduces the risk factors of metabolic syndrome. However, there is a lack of evidence as to what happens to the metabolic syndrome risk factors when weight is regained. If the risk factors could be kept at bay despite weight regain, it would be very significant for the prevention of metabolic syndrome. According to the researchers, “The purpose of this study was to determine if aerobic exercise training effectively maintains improvements to the (metabolic syndrome) variables during partial weight regain.”

•    The study included 102 obese males and females aged 21 to 52 years, with significant symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
•    All the participants were asked to walk or jog and also practice calorie restriction in diet, for a duration of 4 to 6 months. At the end of this phase, they showed a weight loss of 9.7 percent.
•    In the second phase, lasting another 4 to 6 months, participants were divided into two groups of “weight gain with no exercise” and “weight gain with supervised aerobic exercise.” They were provided a diet to induce a weight regain of at least 50 percent of the weight lost.
•    Parameters of metabolic syndrome, such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol, fat over the abdomen, blood sugar levels etc., were recorded at the beginning of the study, after weight loss and after weight regain.

•    Initial weight loss caused all the metabolic syndrome risk factors to reduce significantly.
•    Post weight regain, the aerobic exercise group showed sustained improvements in glucose metabolism parameters like levels of insulin. This was significantly better than the no exercise group.
•    However, the regain of weight was associated with regain of cholesterol and triglyceride levels irrespective of exercise.
•    Similarly, abdominal girth and fat around the belly was restored with weight regain with or without exercise.

Next steps/shortcomings
The authors admit that allowing individuals to regain weight under supervision was a bit unethical, especially in the group that did not perform supervised exercise. They were allowed a healthy but excessive diet for regain of weight. In real life situations, people who regain weight by eating unhealthy diets with less fiber and more fried/fatty foods may show different results of these parameters, at the end of the study.

The danger of weight regain without exercise is highlighted in the present study. Exercise keeps some of the parameters that raise the risk of metabolic syndrome, consistently low. This study should convey the message that a one-time weight loss is not enough and more sustained weight maintenance through exercise and calorie restriction could mean lower levels of risk factors and diminished risk of heart disease and death in susceptible individuals. The authors conclude that while exercise may offset the harmful outcomes of partial weight gain on risk factors for metabolic syndrome, weight regain in the absence of exercise is usually damaging to the body, with respect to the same risk factors.

For More Information:
Exercise and the Metabolic Syndrome with Weight Regain
Publication Journal: Journal of Applied Physiology, February 2010
By Tom R. Thomas; Shana O. Warner; University of Missouri, Columbia

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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