Study shows faster weight loss no better than slow weight loss for health benefits

Losing weight slowly or quickly won’t tip the scale in your favour when it comes to overall health, according to health researchers at York University. Researchers found that people who lose weight quickly versus those who lose it slowly don’t get any additional health benefits, and it’s the amount of weight lost overall that can have an impact.

Jennifer Kuk

In the study led by Jennifer Kuk, associate professor in York University’s Faculty of Health, researchers looked at the data of more than 11,000 patients at a publicly funded clinical weight management program and found that those who lost weight quickly had similar improvements in metabolic health to those who lost weight slowly. Moreover, the rate of weight loss matters less for overall health benefits than the amount of weight lost.

Normally, individuals are instructed to lose one to two pounds per week, as faster weight loss is linked to a slightly higher risk of gallstones. However, there are reasons to believe that faster weight loss may have better effects on cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors.

The study is the first study of its kind to look specifically at risk factors for cardiovascular health and diabetes.

“With the same pound-for-pound weight loss, there is no difference in terms of health benefits if you lose weight fast or slow,” said Kuk. “However, given the risk for gallstones with faster weight loss, trying to lose weight at the recommended one to two pounds per week is the safer option.”

The study looked at 11,283 patients who attended the Wharton Medical Clinic Weight Management Program between July 2008 and July 2017. Researchers found that patients who lost weight more quickly tended to have a bigger reduction in obesity and better health improvements than patients who lost weight slowly. However, these improvements in health associated with faster weight loss were abolished after adjusting for absolute weight loss.

“The results show that we really need to look at interventions that focus on long-term weight management that can achieve sustained weight loss at the recommended one to two pounds per week,” said Kuk.

The study is published in the Journal of Obesity.

For more York University news, photos and videos, visit the YFile homepage