Weight Loss: A Little Could Do a Lot

Losing small body weight percentage may improve metabolic function, overall health

(RxWiki News) For overweight patients, attempting to shed those extra pounds can be daunting. But even dropping a few can have profound health benefits, new evidence suggests.

A new study found that losing as little as 5 percent body weight could be enough to see significant health benefits. Researchers said this study is the first to compare the health outcomes of obese patients who lost 5, 10 and 15 percent body weight.

These findings are important considering that obesity is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

"These results demonstrate you get a large bang for your buck with a 5% weight loss," said lead study author Samuel Klein, MD, in a press release. Dr. Klein is a professor of medicine and nutritional science at Washington University.

He continued, "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%."

According to this study, several medical and scientific societies recommend obese patients lose between 5 and 10 percent body weight to achieve better metabolic function and overall health.

For this study, Dr. Klein and team enlisted 40 obese men and women and randomly assigned them to either maintain their weight or go on a low-calorie diet to lose 5, 10 or 15 percent body weight. All of these patients showed signs of insulin resistance, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Among the 19 patients who lost 5 percent body weight, beta cell function improved significantly. Insulin sensitivity in their fat tissue, liver and skeletal muscle also improved — allowing them to absorb insulin more readily.

The 9 patients who achieved additional weight loss experienced even better beta cell function and insulin sensitivity.

Dr. Klein and team said they hope this study will motivate obese patients to achieve manageable weight loss goals.

"We hope that these findings will encourage obese people to take reasonable steps to watch what they eat and increase their physical activity, because this will translate into a lower risk for diabetes and heart disease," Dr. Klein said.

This study was published Feb. 22 in the journal Cell Metabolism.

The National Institutes of Health, the Pershing Square Foundation and the Longer Life Foundation funded this research.

Dr. Klein was a shareholder of Aspire Bariatrics and has served on scientific advisory boards for Takeda Pharmaceuticals and NovoNordisk.

Review Date: 
February 17, 2016