Researchers in Denmark have found that the body can adjust to lower weight levels on a diet, if people are able to maintain the weight loss for about 12 months. It has been shown in previous studies that when people choose to restrict their food or diet, it can cause the body to fight the loss of weight by increasing hunger which causes people to eat more. This explains why dieters find themselves breaking their diet and going back to their old eating habits. This can often cause them to become heavier than they were originally and helps to form the cycle of yo-yo dieting.
The study in Denmark has shown that it is possible to beat these survival mechanisms which are designed to ensure that the body remains in good health. Twenty obese but healthy participants were chosen and asked to stick to a strict, very low-calorie diet for 8 weeks. They lost an average of 2 stone each or about an eighth of their body weight on the diet. After 8 weeks, they were asked to maintain the weight for 52 weeks. The participants had their blood monitored for plasma levels of glucagon-similar peptide 1 (GLP-1), peptide YY (PYY3-36), ghrelin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon weekly.
During the year the study took place, levels of GLP-1 and PYY36-6 increased. These peptides help to inhibit appetite. Ghrelin, which is a hormone related to hunger, increased at the beginning of the diet period but returned to levels which were below the original levels by the end of the study. The glucagon levels were left the same after weight loss. The researchers related the increase in ghrelin to the body’s reaction to the initial weight loss as it was not consuming as many calories, but the other two hormones increased during the maintenance period, showing that the body was able to accept its new weight as the norm.
This was a very small-scale study and more research will be needed to ensure the results can be duplicated. The participants were all able to lose an average of 2 stone each and were strictly monitored to maintain the weight loss. The researchers felt that the fact that the body chemistry can change to adjust to a new lower body weight could be good news for dieters in the future. If the body’s own biological defences can be overcome to enable more long-term weight loss, then it has implications for the future advice to people who need to lose large amounts of weight.
Torekov, S.S., et al., Successful weight loss maintenance includes long-term increased meal responses of GLP-1 and PYY 3-36, European Journal of Endocrinology, March 2016, dos: 10.1530/EJE-15-1116
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