Improvements to health remain even if weight is regained after long-term healthy dietary interventions, say researchers.
Long-term healthy dietary interventions frequently induce a rapid weight decline, mainly in the first four to six months, followed by weight stabilization or regain, despite continued dieting.
The partial regain may discourage people from adhering to healthier habits, but research now shows that improvements to health remain, regardless of partial weight regain.
The study was conducted among 322 participants during the two-year Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial (DIRECT) performed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev at the Nuclear Research Center Negev, Israel (New England Journal of Medicine).
The population was randomised to three different, but healthy interventions: low-fat, Mediterranean or low-carbohydrate diets, and unprecedented adherence rates were maintained throughout the entire two-year period.
"This study tells us that we may all have tunnel vision on weight when it comes to healthy dieting. Although maintaining ideal body weight is linked to better health, when it comes to adopting healthier dietary habits in mild to moderately obese people, there are benefits beyond weight loss, such as decreasing inflammatory tone and elevating the 'good cholesterol' HDL," said BGU Faculty of Health Sciences Prof. Assaf Rudich.
Rudich explains that switching to healthier dieting extends benefits beyond the single outcome of weight loss. In fact, important improvements that likely signify decreased risk for cardiovascular disease occur even despite weight regain, as long as dieting continues.
The researchers identified two distinct patterns:Pattern-A" includes biomarkers [insulin, triglycerides, leptin, chemerin, monocyte-chemotactic-protein-1(MCP-1), and retinol-binding-protein-4(RBP4)] whose dynamics tightly corresponded to changes in body weight.
"Pattern B" that includes high-molecular-weight (HMW) [adiponectin, HDL-cholesterol, high-sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP), fetuin-A, progranulin, and vaspin], which displayed a continued, cumulative improvement throughout the intervention, despite the partial weight regain observed during months 7-24 of continued dieting, a totally different pattern of biomarkers.
These patterns were similar, although of different magnitude, across the low-carb, Mediterranean and low-fat diets.
The study was recently released online in Diabetes Care.