To lose weight and keep it off, study finds lifestyle changes and medication can be crucial
- Lifestyle is changing and weight is changing, new study finds weight loss medications can help lead to 10% weight loss.
- Losing weight in a sustainable and healthy way is usually very difficult.
- Experts say this new data can help people who want to lose weight work with their doctor safely.
New research reveals that lifestyle changes combined with weight-loss medications helped obese and overweight people maintain nearly 11% weight loss for five years.
Weight loss of more than 10% offers significant health benefits, according to researchers.
“If weight loss can be sustained, metabolic abnormalities can be reversed with significant benefits in patients with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many other diseases for which obesity is the root cause,” said the lead author of the study. Michael A. WeintraubMD, lead author and member of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Weill Cornell Medicine, told Healthline.
Weintraub and the team presented their findings on June 12 at ENDO 2022the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Our real-world study,” Weintraub said. “Demonstrates that anti-obesity drugs combined with lifestyle changes can lead to significant weight loss of 10% of body weight and that this loss is maintained over the long term.”
The study analyzed data from 428 patients at an academic weight management center.
“This research can help guide physicians toward designing personalized and accessible treatment regimens to help patients lose weight over the long term,” he said.
All patients received advice on how to follow a low glycemic diet and exercise by the obesity medicine specialist during their office visits and received additional advice with a dietician accredited.
At their last visit, patients were using an average of two weight management medications.
Followed for approximately 5 years, participants maintained an average weight loss of 10.7%.
“In our study, we were surprised at the magnitude of weight loss achieved and maintained,” Weintraub said. “By adding anti-obesity drugs, patients lost and maintained an average of 10% of their body weight, which in this cohort was 23 pounds.”
He added that a third of patients could maintain weight loss of 15% or more over the long term.
“If weight loss can be sustained, metabolic abnormalities can be reversed with significant benefits in patients with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many other diseases for which obesity is the root cause,” said Weintraub.
Brian QuebbemannMD, FACS, bariatric surgeon and founder of the NEW program in Orange County, Calif., said that for many overweight or obese people, a 10% weight loss would not mean they end up with a moderate weight.
“Yes, a 10% weight loss provides health benefits,” Quebbemann said.
He compared it to a person with a blood pressure of 200 over 140 who is better off if they receive medication that lowers their blood pressure to 180 over 120. At that level, they would still be considered to have high blood pressure.
“Yes, they’re better off, but they’re still a long way from reaching healthy blood pressure,” Quebbemann said.
Suchitra RaoMD, a bariatric physician at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif., said when used correctly, weight-loss drugs can help people reach their weight loss goals in a safe way.
“However, obesity is a chronic, complex and relapsing disease,” she noted. “It may be necessary to continue them long term to maintain weight loss and prevent weight regain.”
Rao added that beneficial lifestyle interventions to promote and maintain weight loss include behavioral modifications to adapt our lifestyle to healthy eating, learning to stay active regardless of age, managing stress and get enough sleep.
According Minisha SoodMD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, While all drugs have potential side effects, the real question is whether a drug’s benefits outweigh its risks.
“In the case of obesity, the benefits often outweigh the risks,” she said. “Metformin, topiramate and phentermine have been used successfully and safely for many years.”
Sood pointed out that these drugs have manageable side effects and can be easily discontinued if someone experiences intolerable side effects.
However, when the drug is stopped, the weight may increase.
Jonathan Purtell, dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said relying solely on lifestyle changes to lose weight doesn’t work for many people.
“The two most common would be hypothyroidism and PCOS, which would not only require lifestyle changes but also prescribed medications,” he said.
When asked if diet pills were the best option for people seemingly unable to lose weight through diet and exercise alone, he said they could be a useful tool.
New research reveals that a combination of weight-loss medications and lifestyle changes can lead to significant long-term weight loss.
Experts say that once the drugs are stopped, the weight can come back.
They also encourage people trying to lose weight to carefully assess their lifestyle in order to make healthy changes that encourage weight loss.