We already know that piling on the pounds will ultimately lead to more difficulty when attempting to lose weight. Yet the situation is more grave than anticipated. A recent large-scale study has concluded that attaining normal weight is nigh-impossible for obese adults. In fact, even a 5 percent drop in weight in a given year is only possible in 1 in 10 women and 1 in 12 men.
These findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health and are the result of a massive study involving over 278,000 U.K. residents. The study participants were followed over a nine-year period and researchers examined a multitude of variables to ascertain whether weight loss was a possibility.
According to their results, 1 in 124 obese women manages to return to a normal weight, while only 1 in 210 obese men manage to do so. The situation is even more dire in the case of people suffering from severe obesity: 1 in 677 women and 1 in 1,290 men were capable of returning to a normal weight according to the researcher’s findings.
The team looked at electronic health records spanning over a period between 2004 and 2014 and looked at the likelihood of reaching a normal body weight. They took BMI (body mass index) into account and bariatric surgery recipients were excluded from the study.
The results of the study raise important questions as to the efficacy of current obesity tackling strategies. It would seem that reducing calories and increasing physical activity simply aren’t enough to help those dealing with weight issues. Shedding weight and keeping it off is particularly difficult, as only eight in one hundred obese men were capable of reducing their body weight by at least 5 percent.
Researchers also identified another problem: weight cycling. It seemed that one third of the study’s participants experienced weight increases and decreases. Dr. Alison Fildes, lead author of the study, points out that achieving a 5% body weight loss is a meaningful step forward and an excellent target. Yet this target may be more difficult to achieve than previously believed.
One issue with the study was the fact that researchers couldn’t determine whether the participants had been voluntarily attempting to lose weight. In this sense, previous studies have suggested that actively attempting to lose weight improves one’s odds of doing so.
However, the message is clear: wealthy nations such as the UK and the US have been battling an obesity crisis for decades and things are only getting worse. It’s clear that new approaches are needed to efficiently deal with what could become our nation’s greatest killer. WHO statistics are troubling: by 2030, 74 percent of men and 64 percent of women will be obese, and the situation is not looking brighter in the US.
“Priority needs to be placed on preventing weight gain in the first place,” study authors wrote, while also mentioning that obesity treatments should first focus on preventing patients from gaining further weight.
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