When you’re overweight or obese, the thought of losing enough pounds to achieve your “ideal” weight can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to remember that losing a relatively small amount of weight can have a large impact on your health.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends setting a realistic weight-loss goal of up to 10% of your body weight (1). If you have risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood glucose, the Academy says that a 3%-5% weight loss can improve these risk factors. So for someone who weighs 175 pounds, a realistic goal would be to lose up to 17.5 pounds. But losing 5-9 pounds is enough to reap some health benefits.
In a 2013 Evidence Report from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), experts outlined how modest weight loss affects indicators related to diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure (2).
For people who are overweight or obese, but do not have type 2 diabetes:
-Losing 5-12 pounds can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%-60%.
-Losing 7-18 pounds can improve triglycerides, “good” HDL cholesterol, and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
-Losing 5% of your body weight can reduce blood pressure and cut down on the need for blood pressure medications
For people who are overweight or obese, and have type 2 diabetes:
-Losing 2%-5% of your body weight reduces fasting glucose and HgA1c.
-Losing 5%-10% of your body weight results in bigger reductions in HgA1c and decreases the need for diabetes medications.
-Losing 5%-8% of your body weight increases “good” HDL cholesterol and decreases triglycerides.
-Losing 5% of your body weight may allow you to take a lower dose of cholesterol medication.
Authors of a more recent review of research on this topic are more cautious about the benefits of modest weight loss for those with type 2 diabetes (3). Their conclusion: Weight loss is more important for the prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes than for treating it.
While the biggest losers get all the attention, it’s clear that losing a relatively small amount of weight results in health benefits for those who are overweight or obese.
(1) Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the treatment of overweight and obesity in adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:129-147. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.10.031.
(2) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults: Systematic Evidence Review from the Obesity Expert Panel, 2013. Online at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sites/www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/obesity-evidence-review.pdf.
(3) Franz MJ et al. Lifestyle weight-loss intervention outcomes in overweight and obese adults with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115:1447-1463. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.031.
In a randomized controlled study of 40 obese subjects, a 5% weight loss significantly affected body fat in the abdomen and liver, insulin sensitivity, and beta cell function. Beta cells are found in the pancreas; they store and release insulin. Impaired beta-cell function is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. Greater weight losses of 11%-16% showed even more benefits in insulin sensitivity and beta cell function.
Source: Magkos et al. Cell Metabolism. 2016;23:1–11. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2016.02.005.
By Hollis Bass MEd, RDN
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.