Posted on Dec 27, 2019, 2 p.m.
A study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that more Americans are motivated to lose weight, increasing numbers are beginning to eat less, exercise, drink more water, and try out new diet plans, unfortunately the vast majority of these attempts fail.
Despite more being motivated to lose weight than ever before, Americans remain heavier than ever despite effects according to research. According to federal survey data the proportion of people who have tried to shed weight during the previous year increased to 42%, that’s up from 34% in 1999-2000.
However, at the same time body mass index and weight for the average American also increased: average BMI increased to 29.4 which is slightly under the marker level of 30 set for obesity, that is an increase from the average BMI being 28 in 1999-2000. The scales jumped up too going from an average weight of 176 pounds in 1999-2000 to an average weight of 184 pounds, based on the federal survey of 48,000 adults between the ages of 40-64.
"Where weight-loss efforts are increasing, we can expect a decreasing trend of obesity, but it is not decreasing," said senior researcher Dr. Lu Qi, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center in New Orleans.
This may be happening because people are not pursuing weight loss in an effective manner, such as nearly one third of people are trying to eat less, but they appear to be substituting fattening foods into their diet as they try to cut back on the amount the eat, according to Qi.
"People reported reducing their food intake, but when we analyzed the calorie intake, there's no decreasing trend," Qi said. "Even the people who report their food intake, they didn't reduce their calorie intake, which is key to weight loss."
According to experts the increasing numbers highlight there being a fundamental flaw in the American weight loss strategy, and according to Dr. Kaplan exercising and eating less really won’t work long term because the body regulates how much fat it carries which is outside of your personal control.
"There's one obvious conclusion we can draw—the way we have been told as a population to lose weight doesn't work," said Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "Obesity is a disease where the body thinks it needs more fat than is healthy," Kaplan said.
Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed noting that "detailed research clearly shows that eating less and exercising more are not effective for long-term weight loss. They proliferate and add to the frustration and stress of afflicted individuals," Roslin said of these strategies. "Humans can only eat less for short periods. Exercise is vital for wellness but not weight loss."
As Kaplan explains the body is programmed to carry a certain amount of fat to help keep us healthy along the same lines of how the body automatically regulates how much water or blood it contains which is why when we lose weight during an illness the pounds return.
"The first thing that will happen when you recover from the flu is you're going to gain that 10 pounds back," Kaplan said. "Most people focus on the physics of weight. They always talk about the laws of thermodynamics and energy in and energy out," he said. "They don't realize that on top of the physics, the body cares how much fat it has. Merely eating less is not doing anything. Merely eating less is just telling the part of the brain that regulates this that you are sick," Kaplan continued. "And what does the brain do when you're sick and lose weight? It puts it back on for you."
Eating right and following a balanced healthy diet is important for other reasons including keeping the heart healthy and avoiding diabetes. The researchers suggest that a true cure for obesity will require medications or therapies to help the body readjust the self regulation of fat, and compare it to treating epilepsy, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol which are all conditions that medical science previously though could be voluntarily regulated without the need for drugs or therapies.
"Once you recognize this is biology, then you need a biological and medical solution," Kaplan said. "We're working towards that."
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