When it comes to heart health, small changes often provide big benefits. That was certainly the case recently, when researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis determined that obese people who lost just five percent of their body weight saw significant improvements in certain health markers related to cardiovascular health.
The study, whose findings were published this month in the journal Cell Metabolism, followed 40 obese men and women at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Half of the participants were asked to maintain their current weight, while the rest were placed on a calorie-restricted diet to lose five, 10, or 15 percent of their body weight. Overall, the first group saw “the biggest bang for their buck,” according to lead author Dr. Samuel Klein.
The 19 individuals who lost five percent of their body weight (about ten pounds for a 200-pound person) saw improvements in insulin sensitivity in the body tissues as well as decreases in total body fat and less fat in the liver, all of which reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. And, while the other two groups experienced some further improvements in insulin sensitivity—mainly in the muscle tissue—it seems the most benefit came as a result of losing the initial five percent.
“Continued weight loss is good, but not all organ systems respond the same way,” said Klein. “Muscle tissue responds much more to continued weight loss, but liver and adipose tissue have pretty much achieved their maximum benefit at five percent weight loss.” He and his team stress the importance of making small, everyday diet and lifestyle changes to gradually achieve a healthy weight.