Study: quick weight loss may yield lasting results

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Get-slim-quick strategies are often evaluated similarly to get-rich-quick schemes — as unlikely to yield any long-term results. Yet a new study published today in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggests that, for obese patients in the initial stages of weight loss, shedding pounds speedily may actually be key to keeping them off.

Researchers at the University of Florida analyzed weight loss information for 262 obese women participating in the Treatment of Obesity in Underserved Rural Settings (TOURS) clinical trial. Trial participants were encouraged to cut back on calories and increase exercise — toward the goal of losing about one pound (0.45 kg) each week.

To better understand how the pace of weight loss influenced longevity of results, the researchers analyzed participants’ results from the first month of the trial, dividing into three groups: fast, or those who lost an average of 1½ lbs (0.68 kg) per week; moderate, or those who dropped between ½ lb. to 1½ lbs. (0.23 kg to 0.68 kg) each week; and slow, or those who shed less than ½ lb. (0.23 kg) per week during the first month. The study authors then analyzed participants’ overall weight loss at 6 and 18 months.

They found that, women who had initially dropped weight most quickly tended to shed more weight overall and maintain the weight loss longer than those who had a more gradual start. Researchers noted that women who had dropped weight more quickly were no more likely to regain that weight than those whose pace had been more moderate. In the year after the six-month intervention phase, just 16.9% of women in the slow weight-loss group had reached the goal of shedding 10% of overall body weight. In contrast, 35.6% of participants in the moderate group, and 50.7% in the fast group did so.

The authors sum up that, within the context of a controlled weight-loss program:

“… [L]osing weight at a fast initial rate leads to great short-term weight reduction, does not result in increased susceptibility to weight regain, and is associated with larger weight losses and overall long-term success in weight management.”