Maintaining weight loss is much more challenging than getting the weight off in the first place. But if you want to lead a healthy life maintain weight loss is a critical step.

Study on Best Means of Maintaining Weight Loss

Weight regain after an initial successful weight loss in people with obesity, constitutes an important and unsolved problem. Until now, no well-documented study on which treatment method is best for maintaining a healthy weight loss has been available.

Researchers at University of Copenhagen and Hvidovre Hospital have completed a new study published The New England Journal of Medicine.

By testing four different types of treatment following a diet-induced weight loss, the researchers demonstrate for the first time how it is possible for people with obesity to maintain long-term weight loss, says Professor Signe Torekov at the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

In a randomized clinical trial, the group of researchers has demonstrated a highly effective treatment after a diet-induced weight loss, by combining moderate to vigorous-intensive exercise with appetite-inhibiting obesity medication, an analog to the appetite-inhibiting hormone GLP-1.

Highly efficient when combining treatments

• 215 Danes with obesity and low fitness ratings participated in the study.

• The participants initially followed a low calorie diet over eight weeks, where they each lost approximately 13 kg, which brought significant improvements to their health with a drop in blood sugar level and blood pressure.

• The participants were then randomly divided into four groups.

• Two of the groups received placebo medication, while the two other groups received obesity medication.

• Among the two placebo groups, one group followed an exercise program of minimum 150 minutes of physical activity at moderate intensity or 75 minutes at vigorous-intensity during the week or a combination of the two, while the other group maintained their current level of physical activity.

• The two groups receiving obesity medication were similarly divided into one group with and one group without an exercise program.

• All participants in the study were weighed monthly and received nutritional and diet counseling with the focus on healthy weight loss according to the guidelines from the Danish health and food administrations.

Results of Study

• After one year, the group with exercise alone and the group with obesity medication alone maintained the weight loss of 13 kg and health improvements.
• The placebo group gained half of the weight back with deterioration of all risk factors, for example for development of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
• The most dramatic improvements occurred in the combination group, which followed the exercise program and received obesity medication.
• The researchers observed additional weight loss in this group, and the total weight loss was approximately 16 kg over one year.
• The health benefits were also double that of each of the single treatments, i.e., twice the loss of fat mass while preserving muscle mass, higher fitness ratings, reduced blood sugar and improved quality of life.

The two groups that exercised increased their fitness rating, lost fat mass, and gained muscle mass. This could indicate a healthier weight loss than for people, who had only lost fat mass without increasing the fitness rating.

“It is an important aspect to highlight, as you do not necessarily get a healthier body from losing weight if, at the same time, you lose a lot of muscle mass,” says Signe Torekov.

“It is great news for public health that a significant weight loss can be maintained with exercise for approximately 115 minute per week performed mostly at vigorous-intensity, such as cycling. And that by combining exercise with obesity medication, the effect is twice as good as each of the individual treatments.”

With the study, the researchers now hope people with obesity, together with their care provider, can create a useful framework for maintaining the weight loss.

Fundamental lifestyle change

Signe Torekov points out that many people with obesity have tried to lose weight before, only to regain the weight.
He emphasized the importance of following up with the participants on an ongoing basis to ensure that they received the support they needed in order to exercise. That is necessary, because maintaining weight loss is extremely hard.

According to Signe Torekov, it is important to participate in a mutual weight maintenance program based on feedback when starting a weight loss program.

“Therefore, it is important that there is a system for supporting people with obesity in maintaining the lifestyle change.” says Torekov.

Click here to learn more about the study on maintaining weight loss.