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Oct 23, 2014

Rapid Weight Loss is Not So Bad, After All

Gradual vs. rapid weight loss has little impact on long-term weight control.

Slow and steady may not be the best strategy for weight loss, according to a long-term study comparing gradual vs. rapid weight loss in obese adults.

Published in The Lancet, this study tested current guidelines, which recommend losing weight at a slow initial rate to promote larger long-term weight reduction. A total of 200 obese adults participated in the study with the goal of losing at least 12.5% of their body weight during the study period. Half of participants were randomly assigned to a modest nine-month diet that reduced calorie-intake by 500 calories a day. The other half of participants were assigned to a fast-track weight loss program, reducing calorie-intake to 450-800 calories a day for three months. After following their assigned diets, participants were then placed on a weight maintenance program for three years.

After analysis, researchers found that adults following the rapid weight loss program were more likely to achieve weight loss goals compared to those on the gradual program. In fact, 81% of participants in the rapid weight loss group achieved weight loss goals, compared to just 50% of the gradual weight loss group. And contrary to current beliefs, there was no significant difference in weight regain in either group after three years. Three years after the initial diet, nearly three-fourths of all participants regained the weight they lost, regardless of their diet.

Most importantly, these findings defy the myth that gradual weight loss is more effective in the long run compared to fast-track weight loss programs. Not only did more individuals achieve their weight loss goals on the rapid vs. gradual diets, researchers found that adults were less likely to drop out when seeing weight loss results faster. Rather than promoting only slow and steady weight loss to patients, authors encourage clinicians to determine which type of weight loss is most appropriate for different patients. Rapid weight loss over three months may work for some individuals, but not for others. The key is finding the right kind of diet for each individual and providing the support needed to achieve long-term weight loss goals.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is obesity?
  • Obesity is defined as excess body fat, which can lead to serious health consequences. Obesity is typically measured by body mass index, which measures weight in relation to height. Adults with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese.
  • What is the best way to lose weight?

  • Weight loss boils down to a simple formula: burn more energy each day than you take in from food. A deficit of 3500 calories will net one pound of fat loss. Therefore, if you cut down your food intake by just 100 calories a day, you can expect to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year.

    Although it’s tempting to look for a quick fix with a speedy weight loss scheme, many popular diets are unhealthy or produce only temporary results. You’ll have better luck with an eating plan that includes a variety of healthful foods and gives you enough calories and nutrients to meet your body’s needs. Taking it slow by making ongoing eating and exercise changes is the best way to reach and maintain your optimal weight.

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