According to a new study, maintaining a modest weight loss over 2 years appears to reduce risk factors for heart disease and diabetes in overweight or obese, middle-aged women.
Obesity is a leading cause of death worldwide, with increasing prevalence in adults and children. Health experts consider it to be one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century because it increases the likelihood of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis, among others.
In the present study, 417 women (average age 44 years, average weight 200 pounds) participated in weight loss programs for up to 24 months. Those who saw - and maintained - a 10 percent or greater loss of body weight for two years succeeded in reducing their total cholesterol, LDL or bad cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, glucose as well as levels of various inflammation markers.
Overall, women who had the highest levels of risk before the study started appeared to benefit the most.
On the other hand, factors that raise their disease risk include sedentary jobs, repeated pregnancies and the transition to menopause. A large percentage of middle-aged American women find themselves weighing much more in their forties and fifties than they weighed in their teens.
When postmenopausal overweight women lose weight it’s a good thing. However, studies have shown that gaining back just a few pounds raises risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
In general, women enrolled in short-term weight loss programs usually do fine in terms of weight loss in the first six months, before they rebound and start to gain weight again. Clearly, healthcare providers need to provide women with longer-term support for weight control.
In conclusion - if overweight or obese, middle-aged women commit to losing a modest percentage of their body weight and can sustain that over time, they can significantly lower their risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.