Will Weight Loss Make You Healthy?

Most people know there is an obesity epidemic in the United States. One-third of American adults are obese and another one-third are overweight. If you have extra weight and develop a medical problem like hypertension, will losing weight allow you to avoid, reduce or stop medication? For many diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis losing weight will reduce the need for treatment. However, there are no guarantees. Thin people sometimes get the same diseases.

Obesity increases your chance of developing hypertension even during childhood. A study of obese American adolescent males found they had a diastolic blood pressure 4.2mm higher than adolescents with a normal weight. Although about 80 percent of patients with hypertension are overweight or obese, 20 percent are underweight or normal. For adults, a 1 kg increase in body weight increases systolic blood pressure by an average of 0.45 mm/Hg and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 0.36 m/Hg. Losing 5 percent of your weight reduces your risk of hypertension by 15 percent.

About 90 percent of adults with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, while only 10 percent are underweight or normal. Before getting diabetes, most people have prediabetes. With prediabetes, the blood sugar is normal, but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. A program that includes a 5 percent weight loss can reduce the chance of developing diabetes by up to 50 percent. A standard weight loss program can improve diabetes, but is unlikely to reverse it. For example, an 8.5 percent weight loss in one study only lowered the average sugar by 20 mg/Dl.  In addition to losing weight, weight loss surgery changes the metabolism. This combination can eliminate the need for diabetes medications in up to 90 percent of people following surgery. Of course, weight loss surgery has a much higher risk than a weight loss diet.

Weight has less effect on arthritis. About 70 percent of adults with arthritis are overweight or obese, while 30 percent are underweight or normal.  A five point increase in body mass index (BMI) raises the risk of hip arthritis by 11 percent and knee arthritis by 35 percent. A 10 percent weight loss significantly decreases arthritis symptoms. Unfortunately, damage to the joint from arthritis does not reverse with weight loss.

Weight loss can improve other conditions beyond the scope of this article including high cholesterol and obstructive sleep apnea. If you are considering losing weight, there are multiple potential health benefits, but no guarantees that it will cure a problem.

References

  1. Bruce MA, Beech BM, Griffith DM, Thorpe RJ Jr: Weight Status and Blood Pressure among Adolescent African American Males: The Jackson Heart KIDS Pilot Study.  Ethn Dis. 2015 Aug 7;25(3):305-12
  2. Markus MR, Ittermann T, Baumeister SE, Troitzsch P, Schipf S, Lorbeer R, Aumannn N, Wallaschofski H, Dörr M, Rettig R, Völzke H: Long-term changes in body weight are associated with changes in blood pressure levels. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2015 Mar;25(3):305-11
  3. Atella V, Kopinska J, Medea G, Belotti F, Tosti V, Mortari AP, Cricelli C, Fontana : Excess body weight increases the burden of age-associated chronic diseases and their associated health care expenditures. Aging (Albany NY). 2015 Oct;7(10):882-92
  4. Center for Disease Control Diabetes Website – http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/home/index.html
  5. Rueda-Clausen CF, Ogunleye AA, Sharma AM.: Health Benefits of Long-Term Weight-Loss Maintenance.  Annu Rev Nutr. 2015;35:475-516

 

David Trachtenbarg, M.D.



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