Big Health Benefits to Small Weight Loss

Weight Reduction

Story at-a-glance -

  • Obese individuals who lost just 5 percent of their body weight gained significant health benefits that would lower their risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease
  • Losing 5 percent body weight lowered glucose, triglyceride, insulin levels and systolic blood pressure along with liver fat and intra-abdominal fat volume
  • These beneficial changes continued with progressive weight loss up to 16 percent of body weight, which suggests that more weight loss may lead to even greater health benefits

By Dr. Mercola

Working up the motivation to lose weight is half the battle, especially if you're obese and feeling overwhelmed by the number of pounds you need to lose to get healthy. New research brings welcome news, which is that even a small amount of weight loss can yield significant health benefits.

A common treatment recommendation for obese and overweight patients is to lose between 5 percent and 10 percent of body weight to get healthier. But as study author Dr. Samuel Klein, a professor of medicine and nutrition science chief at Washington University School of Medicine, told The New York Times:1

"Losing 5 percent is much easier than losing 10 percent, so it was important to understand what the differences might be … You get a big bang for your buck with 5 percent."

Losing Just 5 Percent of Your Body Weight Triggers Significant Health Benefits

The study involved 40 obese individuals who either maintained their body weight or lost weight via a low-calorie diet.2 Those in the weight loss group had goals of losing 5 percent, 10 percent or 15 percent of their body weight.

It turned out that even the modest 5 percent weight loss led to significant benefits, including changes that would lower the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Specifically:

  • 8 percent lower body fat mass
  • 7 percent lower intra-abdominal fat volume
  • 40 percent lower liver fat
  • Lower glucose, triglyceride and insulin levels
  • Lower systolic blood pressure and heart rates

These beneficial changes continued with progressive weight loss up to 16 percent of body weight, which suggests that more weight loss will lead to even greater health benefits. Further, the 5 percent weight loss did not lead to improvements in markers of inflammation.

That being said, the small 5 percent weight loss led to noteworthy beneficial changes. Klein told Tech Times that even if you can lose only 5 percent of your body weight, you should view it as a success, not a failure:3

"You're much healthier on the inside, and it's a really reasonable and legitimate target for people with obesity."

This isn't the first time modest weight loss has been found to beneficial. Back in 1995, a review published in Obesity Research concluded, "Weight loss as low as 5% has been shown to reduce or eliminate disorders associated with obesity … "4

Obesity Rates Are Skyrocketing

More than 2.1 billion people, or close to 30 percent of the global population, are overweight or obese, and obesity is responsible for about 5 percent of all deaths each year, worldwide.5

Today, about 75 percent of U.S. men and 67 percent of U.S. women are either overweight or obese, and the trend is getting worse, not better. In the U.S., nearly 1 in 5 deaths is now associated with obesity. The statistics for children are equally disturbing.

Over 17 percent of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 fall into the obese category, which can set them up for a lifetime of very serious health problems.6

There has been some provocative research that suggests being overweight may be linked to a longer life, leading some to question whether "healthy obesity" is a potential reality. However, for the vast majority of those who carry around extra pounds, health problems will often result.

Why It's Important to Lose Weight If You're Obese

In a 2014 study that analyzed data from more than 5 million people over the age of 16, every 11-pound increase in body weight was associated with an increased risk for 10 types of cancer, including leukemia, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, cervix, and thyroid cancer.7

Further, people who are obese have been found to be 18 percent more likely to die of any cause.8 A 2013 systematic review and meta-analysis also found that obese individuals were more likely to die sooner or have heart-related problems than people of normal weight — even if they were otherwise healthy.9

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, obesity increases your risk for asthma, sleep disorders (including sleep apnea), depression, pregnancy complications, and poor surgical outcomes.10

Further, in the U.S., eight obesity-related diseases account for a staggering 75 percent of health care costs. These diseases include:

Type 2 diabetes

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Hypertension

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Lipid problems

Cancer (especially breast, endometrial, colon, gallbladder, prostate and kidney11)

Heart disease

Dementia

Why Are Obesity Rates Rising?

Highly processed genetically engineered (GE) foods are a primary culprit, as they're chockfull of ingredients that both individually and in combination contribute to metabolic dysfunction and hard-to-control weight gain.

GE corn syrup, trans fats, and GE sugar — along with heavily processed refined grains — these ingredients are now foundational in the U.S. diet and are increasingly found worldwide. There is virtually no doubt that they are primary contributors to Americans' failing health and rising rates of obesity.

Non-starchy, carb-rich, and highly processed (and typically genetically-engineered) foods, along with being in continuous feast mode, are primary drivers of these statistics. Wherever a highly processed food diet becomes the norm, obesity inevitably follows.

Adding to the problem is extremely aggressive marketing of junk food that's laboratory-created to be addictive and to encourage you to eat more. Then there's the overuse of antibiotics in food production and medicine. Mice given antibiotics for the first four weeks of life grew up to be 25 percent heavier and had 60 percent more body fat than the controls in one study.12

And it's become quite clear that changes to your microbiome (such as antibiotics use) can have a serious and long-term impact on your body's metabolism, especially when they occur early in life. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and plastics chemicals, also likely play a role in rising weights, as do inactivity and lack of sleep.

A Four-Step Plan to Lose Weight

If you're overweight or obese and want to lose some weight, you may be wondering where to start. It helps to look at the foundational reasons why you may be struggling with your weight. Most overweight Americans have some degree of insulin and leptin resistance.

Generally, in order for you to significantly gain weight, you must first become leptin resistant. Leptin is a hormone that helps you regulate your appetite. When your leptin levels rise, it signals your body that you're full, so you'll stop eating. However, as you become increasingly resistant to the effects of leptin, you end up eating more. Many people who are overweight also have an impairment in their body's ability to oxidize fat, which leads to a low-energy state.

Dr. Richard Johnson's research clearly shows that refined sugar (in particular fructose) is exceptionally effective at causing leptin resistance in animals, and it's very effective at blocking the burning of fat. If you are insulin or leptin resistant, as long as you keep eating fructose and grains, you're programming your body to create and store fat.

This is one of the key reasons why, if you are overweight (which means you are also likely insulin or leptin resistant), it would be prudent for you to restrict your fructose consumption to about 15 to 25 grams of fructose per day from all sources. Not only will this help you to avoid additional weight gain, it will also help you to avoid further metabolic dysfunction. You may find this fructose chart helpful in estimating how many grams of fructose you are consuming each day.

Dietary sugar, especially fructose, is a significant "tripper of your fat switch." However, if you are serious about losing weight, you'll need a comprehensive plan that includes the following. This plan will help most people lose weight but, also, it will help you to gain metabolic health. So even if your weight is normal, you can follow this plan to ensure that you're metabolically healthy as well.

1. Eliminate or strictly limit fructose in your diet, and follow the healthy eating program in my comprehensive nutrition plan. Replace processed foods with real food.

2. You can also use intermittent fasting strategically with this program to greatly boost your body's fat-burning potential. Intermittent fasting helps reset your body to use fat as its primary fuel, and mounting evidence confirms that when your body becomes adapted to burning FAT instead of sugar as its primary fuel, you dramatically reduce your risk of chronic disease.

Exercising in a fasted state (such as first thing in the morning) will bring it up yet another notch. A simple way to get started with intermittent fasting is to simply omit breakfast, making lunch the first meal of your day. You can choose to skip breakfast or dinner — as long as you skip one of them. The key to remember is to only eat within a window of six to eight consecutive hours each day and avoid food for at least three hours before bedtime.

3. Engage in high-intensity Peak Fitness exercise to burn fat and increase muscle mass (a natural fat burner). Also, strive to sit less (much less, such as only three hours a day) and walk 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day in addition to your regular exercise program.

4. Address the emotional component of eating. For this I highly recommend the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which helps eliminate your food cravings naturally.

How to Determine Your Healthy Weight

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a flawed measurement tool, so branding yourself as overweight or obese simply based on your BMI is not recommended. Your waist-to-hip ratio is a more reliable indicator of your future disease risk because a higher ratio suggests you have more visceral fat.

Excess visceral fat — the fat that accumulates around your internal organs — is far more hazardous to your health than subcutaneous fat (the more noticeable fat found just under your skin) — a measure that BMI tells you nothing about. The danger of visceral fat is related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and enter your liver, affecting how your body breaks down sugars and fats.

To determine your waist-to-hip ratio, get a tape measure and record your waist and hip circumference. Then divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference. For a more thorough demonstration, please review the video above.

Waist-to-Hip Ratio Men Women

Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Ideal

Men: 0.8

Women: 0.7

Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Low Risk

Men: <0.95

Women: <0.8

Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Moderate Risk

Men: 0.96 to 0.99

Women: 0.81 to 0.84

Waist-to-Hip Ratio: High Risk

Men: >1.0

Women: >0.85

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