In recent decades, the number of people with obesity has increased significantly. With this, methods, diets to lose weight and attempts to lose weight also increased.
However, according to a review article published in the journal iScienceemploying a treatment for obesity that is not focused on weight loss, but rather on physical activity and physical conditioning, is more effective for health.
Obesity, weight loss and physical activity
As I said, the authors consider that both obesity and weight loss attempts are increasing worldwide, however, these efforts appear to be contributing more to weight gain and the accordion effect, also associated with significant health risks and frustration.
As part of weight loss programs, we have the practice of physical activity, used in these cases, in a conventional way to create a caloric deficit, while important benefits of physical activity for health, which do not depend on weight loss, are left side.
Taking this into account, researchers Glenn A. Gaesser, author of Big Fat Lies: The Truth about Your Weight and Your Healthand Siddhartha S. Angadi, from the University of Virginia, in the United States, sought to understand whether weight loss should be the main focus of obesity treatment.
They compare the effectiveness of physical activity or cardiorespiratory fitness (or cardiovascular fitness, which refers to the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to deliver oxygen to muscles to produce energy during physical activity) with that of intentional weight loss to reduce the risk of stroke. mortality and cardiovascular disease.
For this, they carried out a review article and concluded that the practice of physical activity as part of a strategy that seeks weight neutrality is more effective than focusing on weight loss.
5 reasons to focus on weight neutral obesity treatment
The study authors reached their conclusions and proposed a weight neutrality-guided treatment for obesity based on the following reasons:
1- The risk of mortality associated with obesity is mitigated or eliminated by the practice of physical activity or good physical conditioning
In general, it is said that a high Body Mass Index (BMI) (greater than 25 kg/m²) increases the risk of mortality.
However, in addition to knowing about the flaws of this index (such as not taking into account differences in body composition and not providing information on the distribution of body fat), this relationship between BMI and mortality is not so clear, as shown by some studies used in the review.
While some of them indicate higher mortality risk for adults across the entire BMI range greater than 25 kg/m², others show reduced risk among those considered overweight, or BMI values ranging from 25 kg/m² to 30 kg/m². In addition, among the elderly, BMI associated with lower mortality is usually observed in the overweight category.
In studies that included cardiorespiratory fitness, low physical fitness was associated with a higher risk of mortality, regardless of BMI. Likewise, epidemiological studies have shown that the practice of physical activity significantly reduces the risk of mortality or cardiovascular disease associated with high BMI.
2- Physical activity and fitness improve cardiometabolic health regardless of weight loss
The authors showed that physical activity and fitness can contribute to improvements in cardiometabolic markers, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes, similarly to, but also independently of, weight loss.
Furthermore, they noted that while calorie deficit is more effective than physical activity in reducing the body’s fat stores, such restriction for long periods is not sustainable.
3- Weight loss, even if intentional, is not significantly associated with a lower risk of mortality
While some studies show that intentional weight loss, through caloric restriction, can reduce the risk of mortality, others disregard this association.
That is, intentional weight loss does not appear to be associated with a lower risk of mortality.
Furthermore, the quest for weight loss conventionally involves decreasing calorie intake and increasing levels of physical activity, so that even in studies that report reduced risk of mortality associated with weight loss, it is unclear whether it actually weight is the main factor responsible for these results.
4- Increases in fitness or physical activity are associated with greater reductions in mortality risk than intentional weight loss
On the other hand, there is more consistent evidence suggesting that good physical conditioning can reduce mortality risks.
5- The accordion effect is associated with several health problems
Weight cycling, or accordion effect, is when a person loses weight and then regains it repetitively, in a vicious cycle. The effects of this have been discussed for years.
While some studies suggest that there is no health risk, others show that the accordion effect generates health problems very similar to those associated with obesity, a higher risk of mortality, of developing cardiovascular disease and adverse effects in adults with type 2 diabetes and arterial disease. coronary.
Study contributes to understanding the concept of “fat, but healthy”
Finally, the authors clarify that they do not seek to discourage weight loss, but recommend a treatment for obesity that is guided by weight neutrality and focuses primarily on physical activity and fitness improvement for better health outcomes.
They also acknowledge limitations of the studies reviewed, but despite the flaws, believe that the evidence can help to clarify controversies around the concept of “fat but healthy”, which refers to people who are overweight or obese by BMI, but healthy from the point of view of from a cardiometabolic point of view.
The topic deserves further investigation and I hope that studies like these can contribute to a new look at obesity and to a more humanized and respectful treatment.