Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

Which is Better for Successful Weight Loss - Being a Biggest Loser or a Bariatric Surgery Patient?

Tim Boyer's picture
Weight loss vs biggest loser

Going to the extreme is what it takes for some people to lose weight. On one hand we have “Biggest Loser” contestants who appear to demonstrate that severe exercising and calorie restriction in a boot camp style of environment can and does work. On the other hand there are bariatric surgery patients who also lose weight, but with less effort. So which is better? According to a recent U.S. News & World Report health article, there is an important difference between the two methods.


In the latest U.S. News & World Report, writer Yoni Freedhoff, MD, poses the question of whether despite its impressive weight loss results, that choosing to lose weight “Biggest Loser” style is really better than committing to an invasive surgical weight loss technique. To answer this question he points out that two other questions need to be addressed first:

1. Do the “Biggest Loser” contestants maintain their weight loss after the show is done?
2. Is the “Biggest Loser” style of losing weight healthy?

It turns out―that surprisingly―the answer to the first question appears not to be available as a matter of record. However, Dr. Freedhoff does reveal that from interviewing 6 previous contestants of the show that they all claim knowing that 75 or more of their former contestants have regained their weight. And, at least one interviewed contestant claimed that of those who do maintain their weight loss, did so with bariatric surgery afterward.

So what about the second question? Is the “Biggest Loser” style of losing weight a healthy lifestyle change as the show would like its viewers to believe? Perhaps not, according to a recent scientific study published ahead of print in the journal Obesity that did a comparison between “Biggest Loser” style and bariatric surgery weight loss patients.

According to Dr. Freedhoff, the researchers confirmed a previous study’s findings that, while a “Biggest Loser” style weight loss program does lead to weight loss, it does so at the cost of a dieter’s metabolism by essentially “…destroying the loser’s metabolism.”

The objective of the study was to measure changes in resting metabolic rate and body composition in obese subjects following massive weight loss achieved via bariatric surgery or calorie restriction plus vigorous exercise experienced by participants from “The Biggest Loser” weight loss competition.

Dr. Freedhoff reports that the study showed that although both groups lost approximately equally more than 30 percent of their initial weight, the “Biggest Loser” group took a significantly greater loss in their resting metabolic rate. While some decrease in metabolic rate is to be expected due to metabolic adaptation following extreme weight loss, the “Biggest Loser” contestants’ metabolic slowdown was more than double of that of the gastric bypass group.

Furthermore, the “Biggest Loser” contestants also wound up with 500 percent lower circulating leptin levels than the gastric bypass group did following surgery and their resulting weight loss.

According to Women’s Day magazine in an article on how to lose weight with 5 easy ways to harness your hormones, writer Leslie Pepper tells readers that the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin play an important role in keeping your weight in check.

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

Leptin, which is released by fat cells, is a hormone that not only lets your body know when you’ve had enough to eat, but also determines whether that sandwich is stored as fat or used as energy. Ghrelin, a hormone that you experience first thing in the morning, is produced in the stomach and sends signals to the brain telling it that your body is hungry. Therefore, a reduction of leptin would be expected to lead to increased cravings and feelings of hunger.

Couple the lacking leptin levels with a lower metabolic rate, the post-“Biggest Loser” contestants are theoretically looking at a much harder time of keeping their weight loss maintained in comparison to patients who have lost weight via gastric surgery.

Still, this is all conjecture until more study is done that scientifically addresses and accounts for all factors that need to be taken into consideration that could influence results in a comparison.

Meanwhile, Dr. Freedhoff poses a legitimate question concerning the first about why the data is not available as to just how many “Biggest Loser” contestants do maintain their weight loss—and without supporting surgical intervention:

“Given the results of the study, and the reports from former contestants, I can't help but wonder if the reason why there's a lack of a weight loss maintenance phase to investigate ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants in a state of energy balance is because for the vast majority of Losers, there is no maintaining these metabolically unhealthy losses,” writes Dr. Freedhoff.

For more on being a Biggest Loser, here are some Biggest Loser Secrets revealed on The Dr. Oz Show.

Image Source: Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons


U.S. News & World Report: Is 'Biggest Loser'-Style Weight Loss Healthy?

“Metabolic adaptation following massive weight loss is related to the degree of energy imbalance and changes in circulating leptin” Obesity, article first published online: 19 Sept. 2014.