Weight loss is a significant problem in the US, as one third of Americans are overweight and one third are considered obese, based on current guidelines related to BMI. Of course this epidemic isn’t just limited to the US; it has become a worldwide trend which has been costly to healthcare systems. So far, there are no magic pills for weight loss and the problem increases every decade.
Weight loss is never easy, but for some people it is extra challenging. We all know people who seem to struggle with their weight more than most, despite seeming to be doing everything right. For these people, no matter how dedicated they are to a weight loss program- caloric restriction, eating healthy foods, and extreme exercising- they can’t seem to keep the weight off for long even if they can get it off at all. It seems they try so much harder than other people, yet, their results can be quite discouraging.
Is it true that these people have a bigger obstacle to weight loss, or is it all in their minds? It turns out that there is scientific evidence which explains why some people have more difficulty, as highlighted in a clinical trial that was published several years ago in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. There are some predictive factors for weight loss, many of which cannot be easily controlled. Environmental factors,
psychological issues, and genes all contribute to making weight loss easy or difficult.
Some biochemical factors are also predictive to success; metabolic activity, leptin levels (a hormone released by fat cells), and other cellular factors contribute to the speed in which a person loses weight. None of this is meant to imply that our weight is not in our control, but these influences can make weight loss efforts more or less effective.
The purpose of this current study was to identify some of the more significant predictive factors for weight loss and weight maintenance. Systemic inflammation, microbiota (the beneficial gut bacteria), and diet were some of the key elements which were identified. Everyone in the study was overweight or obese, but generally healthy. They were all required to maintain a low calorie diet which was high in protein and fiber. They tracked their food intake in a diet diary. Their gut microbiota was tested as well as glucose levels, inflammatory markers, cholesterol and leptin levels.
The three groups were divided into those who had good weight loss during caloric restriction and successfully maintained it after stopping; those who lost weight during caloric restriction and continued to, even after stopping; and those who lost little weight during the restrictive phase and regained weight quickly after stopping.
Despite the fact that all the people who participated in the study consumed the same number of calories, they chose different types of foods. The group that had the most difficulty with losing and maintaining weight loss were found to eat more starchy foods, the least amount of vegetables and protein, and the most dairy. This group was found to have more insulin resistance, more inflammation, higher triglycerides and less diverse microbiota, as tested at the beginning of the study. The researchers believe that these are important factors which contribute to difficulty losing weight.
This study helps highlight that successful weight loss needs to be about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Although diet restriction is beneficial, the quality of food selection is important and should be focused on foods which aren’t inflammatory. It’s also important to take measures to effectively control blood glucose levels, lipid levels and maintain a diverse gut microbiome. Because there are so many factors which influence weight loss, it’s unlikely there will ever be a single, magic answer.