When it comes to losing weight, shedding those extra pounds is only half the battle. For postmenopausal women, maintaining that weight loss — and not regaining those extra pounds — is at least as important as losing them in the first place.
That’s the chief finding of a new federally funded study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers who found that women who gain back even a few pounds after intentional weight loss face much greater risks from cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders than before they shed those pounds.
"In [postmenopausal] women, weight loss and maintaining that loss offers the most health benefit, but therein lies the problem," said Daniel Beavers, who helped conduct the study, published online by the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. "For most people, weight regain after intentional weight loss is an expected occurrence, and the long-term health ramifications of weight regain in older adults are not well understood."SPECIAL: These 5 Things Flush 40 lbs. of Fat Out of Your Body — Read More.
For the study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, the researchers evaluated 112 obese, postmenopausal women — averaging 58 years of age — during and after a five-month weight loss program. Before, during, and 12 months after the program, researchers also analyzed the women’s body weight/composition and several key health risk factors, including blood pressure, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose, insulin levels and other indicators of a person's overall risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The results showed the women lost a significant amount of weight, an average of 25 pounds. But two-thirds of the women regained at least four pounds after the program ended — putting back on an average of 70 percent of the weight they lost. What’s more, the researchers found that several of the health risk factors measured were even worse among the women who regained the weight they had lost than when they started — a finding that suggests a rebound effect that may increase the dangers posed by regaining weight.
"What we found was that all [health] risk factors are improved with weight loss, which is not surprising, but most regressed back to their baseline values 12 months later, especially for women who were classified as 'regainers,'" said co-researcher Kristen Beavers. "For women who had regained weight in the year after their weight loss, several risk factors were actually worse than before they lost the weight."
Beavers said the study highlights the need to identify effective strategies for long-term weight loss and maintenance, noting past research has found that when postmenopausal women lose weight and gain it back, they regain it mostly in the form of fat, rather than muscle.SPECIAL: These 5 Things Flush 40 lbs. of Fat Out of Your Body — Read More.