23 February 2016

Losing five percent of bodyweight offers big benefits

A study found that people who lost just a small percentage of their body weight saw significant changes that lowered their risk for diabetes and heart disease.


Obese people who lose just five percent of their body weight may see big benefits when it comes to their health, according to a recent US study.

Significant changes

Forty obese men and women were randomly assigned to either lose weight on a calorie-restricted diet, or to maintain their current weight.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis took a close look at the differences between those who lost five, 10 and 15 percent of their body weight, and found that the smallest weight loss group saw significant changes that lowered their risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Read: New weight-loss surgery cheaper and less invasive

The five-percent group – a total of 19 people – lost total body fat, saw improved blood pressure, lower levels of triglyceride fats in the blood, less fat in the liver and had lower blood sugar.

"Our findings demonstrate that you get the biggest bang for your buck with five percent weight loss," said principal investigator Samuel Klein, director of Washington University's Centre for Human Nutrition.

Those who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight saw continued improvements in some areas  like muscle tissue but not in liver function or fat tissue, suggesting these "have pretty much achieved their maximum benefit at five percent weight loss", added Klein.

According to current guidelines, people who struggle with obesity are urged to lose five to 10 percent of their body weight.

Read: Why we struggle to lose weight

"This study is good news for people who struggle with their weight as it suggests that even losing a small amount of weight can have a positive impact on heart health," said Tracy Parker, a heart health dietitian with the British Heart Foundation.

"This study is a reminder of the benefits of gradually getting to a healthy weight," added Parker, who was not involved with the study.

'Less is more'

Klein said more research is needed to see if people with diabetes might show similar responses to a five percent body weight loss.

In the meantime, less is more when it comes to setting realistic goals, he said.

Read: How to lose fat in bulging body parts

"If you weigh 200 pounds (91 kilograms), you will be doing yourself a favour if you can lose 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) and keep it off," he said.

"You don't have to lose 50 pounds (23 kilos) to get important health benefits."

The findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism

Read more: 

Eating certain fruit & veg may control your weight 

Why you may be struggling to lose weight 

Do you really need to detox?


Live healthier

Your hearing »

Are you going deaf or do you just need to unblock your ears? 4 foods that can improve your hearing

Healthy eating may protect your hearing

Watching what you eat can improve the quality of your hearing and reduce your risk of hearing loss.

Quit smoking »

Tougher anti-tobacco laws in the pipeline Bad news, smokers: It's going to be more inconvenient to smoke

This is why many SA smokers quit – Health24 survey

After running our survey for several weeks, the results are in – and they reveal interesting information about smoking and tobacco use in South Africa.