Health benefits last for at least 5 years if shedding pounds occur via a lifestyle change program, the results of a research review show.
Losing weight and making lifestyle changes as part of an intensive behavioral weight loss program was associated with a decrease in risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) for at least 5 years, even if weight was regained, according to the results of a systemic review published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
“Many [physicians] and patients recognize that weight loss is often followed by weight regain, and they fear that this renders an attempt to lose weight pointless,” Susan Jebb, PhD, a professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.
“This concept has become a barrier to offering support to [individuals] to lose weight,” she said. “For [individuals] with overweight or obesity issues, losing weight is an effective way to reduce the risk of [T2D] and [CVD].”
Investigators assessed the results of international scientific studies that were updated no later than 2019 and compared risk factors for CVD and T2D among individuals who followed an intensive behavioral weight loss program to those who followed a less-intensive or no weight loss program.
The analysis included diet and/or exercise interventions, intermittent fasting, partial or total meal replacement, or financial incentives affected by weight loss. The study took place in a variety of settings and included varying modes of delivery, including app-based, in person, and telephone.
Investigators combined the results of 124 studies, which included more than 50,000 individuals, with an average follow-up of 28 months. They used the combined results to estimate changes in risk factors for CVD and T2D after weight loss. The average weight loss ranged from 5 to 10 pounds, with an average weight gain of 0.26 to 0.7 pounds per year.
Investigators found that individuals in an intensive weight loss program who had lost weight had lower risk factors for CVD and T2D that lasted for at least 5 years after the program ended.
The systolic blood pressure averaged 1.5 mm Hg lower at 1 years and 0.4 mm Hg lower at 5 years after participation in an intensive weight loss program.
Additionally, the percentage of hemoglobin A1c was reduced by 0.26 at both 1 and 5 years after participation. The ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was 1.5 points lower at 1 and 5 years after participation.
“Most trials look at whether new treatments are effective and focus on weight change in the short-term rather than the effect on later disease,” Jebb said. “Individual studies are often too small to detect differences between groups in the incidence of cardiovascular conditions because, fortunately, they affect only a small proportion of the whole group, and studies may not continue long enough to see the effects on ‘hard’ outcomes, such as a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or a heart attack.”
Few studies followed individuals for more than 5 years, so more information is needed to confirm these findings and see whether the potential benefit persists, investigators said.
The analysis had a few limitations, which included information that in the review was not updated after 2019, and the review focused on research published in English.
Shedding pounds may benefit your heart — even if some weight is regained. EurekAlert. News release. March 28, 2023. Accessed March 30, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/983692