Eat less, exercise more to really lose weight

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have found that even a modest weight loss of 5 per cent can lead to health benefits

Obese individuals can lose up to 5 per cent body weight by consuming less fat and exercising more

Weight loss is an evergreen industry with many options—different kinds of diets, pills and potions—promising spectacular, almost magical results. But which strategy works best? Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have figured it out. According to them, the best weight loss strategy for obese individuals that can help them lose up to 5 per cent body weight is the good old 'eat less fat, exercise more' [coupled with prescription medicines].

"Although national guidelines recommend a loss of 10 per cent of body weight for improved health in the obese, studies have found that even a modest weight loss of 5 per cent can lead to health benefits," says lead investigator Jacinda M. Nicklas, MD, MPH, MA, Clinical Research Fellow, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.

Liquid diets, nonprescription diet pills, and popular diets showed no association with successful weight loss, and those who reported losing more than 10% body weight were more likely to have joined a weight loss programme. They were also less likely to report eating diet foods and products, compared to those who lost less.

"Interestingly, although participants engaging in formal weight loss programs may be required to consume certain diet products or foods, in our study, adults who said they used diet products were actually associated with being less likely to achieve at least 10% weight loss," notes Dr. Nicklas.

"This suggests that the structure of being in a program may be more important. It is possible that some dieters may be overeating diet products because they believe they are healthy, or low in calories."

In the study, prescription weight loss medications were associated with successful weight loss but were used by a small number of participants. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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