Weight-loss attempts make you healthier, even if they fail
Being overweight is not healthy, and this is especially true of obesity. If you weigh more than you should and are trying to slim down, that's only to be welcomed. Even if your efforts to reduce your fat mass fail, American researchers write in BMC Medicine, they make you healthier.
In the fall of 2020, researchers at the US National Cancer Institute published an epidemiological study, analyzing data from 161,738 participants aged 39-65 who in 2004-2006 took part in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study.
The researchers followed the study participants for an average of 7 years. During this period, 21,194 study participants died.
The researchers knew the number of times that the study participants had seriously tried to lose weight in the 20-year period before the study began.
In the figures below, the researchers have set the mortality risk of subjects who had not attempted to lose weight to 1. As you can see, weight loss attempts did not increase the risk of death.
When the researchers corrected for actual weight loss, the study participants who tried to slim down 5 times or more were less likely to die. So weight loss attempts that did not result in weight loss also reduced the risk of death.
Weight-loss attempts did not reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, but did reduce the risk of dying from cancer.
"In this large prospective cohort study, we discovered that more frequent intentional weight loss attempts over a 20-year period in mid-life was associated with a reduced risk of death, even among those who ultimately gained weight", summarize the researchers.
"If replicated, this finding is of high clinical importance due to the increased prevalence of obesity and the difficulty in maintaining weight loss. Although repeated bouts of weight loss followed by weight regain may not be ideal, they are a common occurrence."
"Our results suggest that frequent intentional weight loss attempts are not harmful and may provide long-term benefit."
BMC Med. 2020 Sep 17;18(1):248.
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