Most of us are familiar with the yo-yo effects of dieting: up and down, up and up and down and up again. Sometimes the needle on that scale hits even higher than it did before the initial weight loss. Huntsvillians are among those familiar with the problems of obesity, with Alabama consistently ranking among the fattest states in the nation
On Wednesday, scientists from the University of Melbourne revealed a reason for that frustrating trend. According to the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that for at least a year, subjects who shed weight on a low-calorie diet were hungrier than when they started and had higher levels of that tell the body to eat more, conserve energy and store away fuel as fat.
The report helps explain why approximately 4 in 5 dieters eventually gain back lost pounds within a year or two of losing them. To top it off, many of them wind up packing on a few extra pounds.
It is a close look at the disheartening pattern: In the wake of weight loss, “multiple compensatory mechanisms” spring to life, the study illustrates, and work together to ensure that weight loss is reversed quickly and efficiently.
The researchers, led by Joseph Proietto of the University ofMelbourne’s Department of Medicine, write that more than one solution to the crisis of obesity will likely be necessary: “a combination of medications” that will have to be safe for long-term use.
The study comes at a time when researchers are struggling to develop effective medications in the fight against obesity. Over the past few years, the Food and Drug Administration has rejected or ordered additional research applications for the approval of four different weight-loss drugs. Additionally, it has ordered that Meridia, a previously approved drug, be pulled off the market.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of Americans and a growing proportion of the developing world’s population are overweight or obese
The Australian study paints a “very comprehensive” and “really discouraging” picture of the breadth of the body’s response to weight loss, said Dr. Daniel Bessesen, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at University of Colorado’s Denver Health Medical Center. It captures just how many resources the body musters to ensure that pounds are put back on — a long list of hormones that regulate appetite, feelings of fullness after eating and how calories are used.
The study enrolled 50 obese men and women without major health problems, and put them on a strict low-calorie diet for eight weeks. Within two weeks after subjects completed that diet, and again one year later, researchers measured blood levels of nine distinct hormones that affect appetite and metabolism, and queried each subject about his or her feelings of hunger after meals, between meals and as mealtime approached.
The challenges of weight control quickly became evident. Thirty-four of 50 enrolled subjects made it to the one-year mark. Four withdrew during the eight-week period of dieting — a rigorous 550-calorie per day regimen. Seven failed to lose 10% of their body mass, which researchers had set as a condition of continued participation.
And five withdrew during the yearlong “weight maintenance” phase, when subjects got regular counseling on a diet-and-exercise plan to help them hold steady at the new weight.
Of those who remained, the average weight loss at 10 weeks, when hormone levels were first measured, was just short of 30 pounds.
If you have problems with obesity, consult your physician. In Huntsville, you can also visit the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website on the Healthy Weight Initiative.