Lose a Little Weight, Gain Big Health Benefits
The authors of a new study report that even if you lose a little weight—just 5 percent of your body weight—you can gain big health benefits. Since a 5 percent goal is more attainable than 10 percent or more, you can feel good about your achievement, be less likely to feel discouraged, and still enjoy better health.
Current guidelines for weight loss for people who are obese is a target of 5 to 10 percent weight loss. However, such a goal may seem overwhelming and discouraging among individuals for whom a 10 percent drop in weight can mean 30 pounds or more.
Why 5 percent weight loss is good
Changing the target goal to 5 percent of body weight can be a more reasonable goal, and once it is reached, individuals may be more likely to attempt another 5 percent goal and “go for the gold,” so to speak, and get even better health perks.
The good news is that “you get a large bang for your buck with a 5% weight loss,” according to Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine and senior study author of a new research endeavor. Among the “large bang” advantages are a reduction in risk factors for coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Since obesity is a major risk factor for these two diseases, as well as cancer, respiratory problems, infertility, gout, musculoskeletal diseases, chronic kidney disease, depression, and gallstones, anyone who is obese who can achieve at least a 5 percent weight loss has a chance to improve their health. Klein emphasized that since losing 5 percent of one’s body weight is easier to achieve than a 10 percent weight loss, “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.”
Study comparing 5% and 10% weight loss
What kind of benefits can you hope to achieve if you lose 5 percent of your body weight compared with a 10 percent or 15 percent loss? An international team of researchers explored this question by randomly assigning 40 obese individuals to either a low-calorie diet to lose weight or to a maintenance program.
All of the volunteers in the randomized controlled trial had signs of insulin resistant glucose metabolism, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Here’s what the authors found:
- 19 participants lost 5 percent of their body weight and experienced a significant improvement in beta cell function (the cells that release insulin into the blood) and in insulin sensitivity
- Nine participants who lose more than 5 percent of body weight achieved additional improvements in beta cell function and insulin sensitivity
The authors reported that their findings “show that 5% weight loss is sufficient to improve health outcomes, with additional weight loss further decreasing risk factors for metabolic and cardiovascular disease.”
Are the results of this study enough to motivate you to lose at least 5 percent of your body weight? The study's authors hope so, because not only is this amount of weight loss a reasonable goal, it also comes with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Magkos F et al. Effects of moderate and subsequent progressive weight loss on metabolic function and adipose tissue biopsy in humans with obesity. Cell Metabolism 2016 Feb 22 online