Research Findings May Help Dieters Maintain Weight Loss

by | Aug 17, 2021 | Treatment

Image: Shutterstock

A study funded by the Nutrition Science Initiative examined whether the type of calories eaten after weight loss might be more important than the number.

If you’ve lost weight and then regained it, you’re not alone. As many as 80 percent of those who manage to get rid of a significant amount of body fat are unable to maintain their new weight for a year — on average, they regain half of what they lost within two years.

How could it be harder to keep weight off than it is to lose it? Here’s something that might come as a surprise: when you reduce calories to lose weight, your metabolism slows down. In its attempt to keep your weight constant, the body doesn’t expend energy from food at the same rate it did before calories were reduced. When you return to your usual level of calorie consumption, your metabolism does not necessarily return to its previous level, and in that case some of the “extra” energy you are consuming will be stored as fat.

Is the only option for those who want to keep weight off to eat less and less, or exercise more and more? Not according to a study funded by the Nutrition Science Initiative that examined whether the type of calories eaten after weight loss might be more important than the number.

A group of 234 overweight and obese adults were enrolled in the study. Throughout the entire study period, they were provided with prepared meals with specific proportions of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein). During the first 9-10 weeks, meals for all participants had identical proportions of these nutrients, with quantities for each participant restricted to an amount expected to cause an average 12 percent loss in body weight.

At the end of this period, those who had achieved the weight loss goal (164 individuals) were randomly assigned to eat one of three diets for a period of 20 weeks: high carbohydrate, moderate carbohydrate or low carbohydrate. The percentage of energy from macronutrients in the diets varied as follows:

Diet Carbohydrates Fat Protein
Low Carb 20% 60% 20%
Moderate Carb 40% 40% 20%
High Carb 60% 20% 20%

The researchers conducted tests to measure the energy expenditure of each group, and  found that those eating the low-glycemic load* diet showed the greatest expenditure increase. They concluded that a diet with less high-glycemic load foods and more  fat “might facilitate weight loss maintenance beyond the conventional focus on restricting energy intake and encouraging physical activity.”

More research is needed to further explore these findings, but they add to a growing body of findings that are opening the door to more effective programs to prevent unwanted weight gain and its progression to diabetes and other diseases.

Several eSavvyHealth video courses and free eBooks offer insight into carbohydrate metabolism and how excess carbohydrate consumption can affect health. To see them, click here.

*Glycemic load is the degree to which foods are likely to raise blood sugar level. While refined carbohydrates such as bread generally have a high glycemic load, un-processed carbohydrates, such as those found in many vegetables, generally do not.

Fundamentals of Health Alliance

Fundamentals of Health Alliance


The Fundamentals of Health Alliance works to publish useful and reliable information about nutrition and health. Their mission is to empower readers to be informed with honest, non-biased information about food, nutrition and the vital components of health.

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