Witnessing a group of overweight strangers shed pounds in the popular game show “Biggest Loser” may be an inspiration for many fans, but is this type of dramatic weight loss diet something that will stick? A new study of the show suggests keeping those pounds off after the curtain call is a lot more difficult than most fans probably think.
CBS News reports about the study published in the journal Obesity that looked at 14 former contestants that lost more than 100 pounds during the 7 months program on “Biggest Loser”. Researchers found that almost all of the former contestants could not keep the weight off.
Only one of the 14 former contestants succeeded in keeping the weight off, while the other 13 regained a significant amount of weight over a six year period. This is not surprising to obesity experts who know that when people lose a lot of weight their resting metabolic rate gets slower which makes it harder to metabolize foods and easier to put on weight. Authors of the study explain, “The phenomenon is called 'metabolic adaptation' or 'adaptive thermogenesis,' and it acts to counter weight loss and is thought to contribute to weight regain.”
In order to not regain weight, the contestants would have had to eat 500 fewer calories than others the same size as them. This was still true after 6 years and many added pounds. The authors write, “Despite substantial weight regain in the 6 years following participation in 'The Biggest Loser,' RMR remained suppressed at the same average level as at the end of the weight loss competition.”
Experts believe that the study highlights the fact that obesity does not have an easy fix of a quick diet and exercise. Dr. William Yancy, director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, explains how obesity is more of a lifelong struggle than people realize. Dr. Yancy says, “There's that constant mentality that if you diet and exercise to lose weight it can be fixed. But it's a lifelong challenge and we've struggled really hard to make it be seen like diabetes, that it [obesity] needs to be treated like a chronic illness.”
Yancy encourages obese patients not to lose hope, he feels that if it is looked at as more of a chronic illness there is a better chance of keeping pounds off. He also points at past studies that have shown low carb diets show better response at keeping metabolic rates higher in people with obesity. He explains, “Another study looked at metabolic rate and compared it to different diets and looked at metabolic rate after weight loss. With a low carbohydrate diet, the metabolic rate did not drop as low as it did with other kinds of diets.”
What do you think of the study that suggests the ‘Biggest Loser’ diet program is not as successful as it seems?
What do you think is the healthiest way to keep pounds off?