Weight Loss: The reduction of body weight as the result of diet change or burning more calories through physical activity – ideally both. Weight loss is usually recommended for overweight or obese people with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women), or two or more risk factors (such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease). Healthy weight loss/management programs usually consist of a reduced-calorie, nutritionally-balanced eating plan, regular physical activity and a behavior change plan to help participants stay on track with their goals.

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

    • Your Microbiome Impacts Whether You Can Lose Weight…Or Not
      A 2021 study from the Institute for Systems Biology compared people who lost 1% or more of their weight each month on a weight-loss diet, compared with those whose weight didn’t budge—finding that the groups had different microbial DNA and bacteria in their microbiome. Those that lost weight had microbial DNA that allowed bacteria (especially Prevotella) to grow fast (these bacteria ate sugar/nutrients before the body could absorb them), while the weight-loss-resistant group had gut enzymes better at breaking down starches/fiber into sugars. More evidence that altering the microbiome is a path to weight loss.
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    • Conventional Wisdom about Metabolism Is Wrong
      It’s widely believed that people put on weight in middle age because their metabolism slows down and that women have slower metabolisms than men. A large 2021 study (6,500 people) indicates that those assumptions are wrong. Rather than metabolism slowing in middle age, there are four distinct phases of metabolic change: 1) infancy until age 1 (3% growth), 2) age 1-20 (metabolism slows about 3% a year), age 20-60 (it holds steady), and after 60 (metabolic rates decline 0.7% a year). So, for adults, metabolism slowdown doesn’t happen until after 60 and there are no real differences in metabolic rates for men and women. These findings have big implications for medicine and wellness.
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    • Obesity Hurts the Brain
      A 2020 study from Johns Hopkins and the University of California, Irvine found that people with a higher body mass index have less blood flowing to their brain, which might explain why obesity is tied to Alzheimer’s risk. Performing brain scans on 17,721 men and women, they discovered that the higher the BMI, the lower the blood flow to five regions of the brain that are especially vulnerable in Alzheimer’s disease: the temporal lobes, the parietal lobes, the hippocampus, the posterior cingulate and the precuneus.  
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    • Intermittent Fasting Cuts 550 Calories a Day
      A 2020 study from the Univ. of Illinois-Chicago randomized obese men and women into three groups: those who ate an unrestricted amount of calories from 1–7 PM, those who ate unrestricted calories from 3–7 PM, and a control group that ate anything at any time of day. Both groups that practiced time-restricted fasting consumed, on average, 550 fewer calories each day and lost 3% of their body weight while seeing significant reductions in insulin resistance and oxidative stress. The researchers noted how significant the impact of intermittent fasting was and how simple: All you have to do is watch the clock.  
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    • Ultra-Processed Foods Seem to Be the Weight Gain Villain – Not Sugar, Fat, Carbs
      A 2019 study from the NIH is the first randomized trial to show that ultra-processed foods drive people to overeat and gain weight compared to whole/less processed foods. Those on an ultra-processed diet ate 508 more calories a week, gaining two pounds over the two-week study period, versus those on the unprocessed diet who lost two pounds a week. Key aspect of the study: Each group ate the same amount of calories, sugar, fat, salt, carbs and fiber—and could eat as much as they wanted. Researchers found that those on the ultra-processed diet had lower levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone and higher levels of the hunger hormone.
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    • With Weight Loss, the More You Lose, the More Radical the Health Impact
      A 2018 study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows that for overweight people, all weight loss is healthy, but the more pounds shed the more dramatic the impact on cutting one’s risk for metabolic syndrome – conditions including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, excess waist fat, high triglycerides and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Compared to people who maintained less than a 5% weight loss for one year, those who lost 5-10% lowered their risk for metabolic syndrome by 22%. A 15-19% loss equaled a 37% lower risk, and a loss of 20% or more had a 53% lower risk. 
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    • Key to Long-Term Healthy Weight Is Eating Regularly – And No Dieting
      A ten-year population study from the University of Helsinki (2018) analyzed nearly 5,000 young men and women who succeeded in managing their weight over ten years. Key finding: trying to prevent weight gain by dieting/skipping meals actually accelerated getting fatter. The study found that eating regular,sufficient meals; refraining from dieting; and finding a more general sense of meaning in life were the key to long-term successful weight management. 
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    • Our Beliefs Impact Our Weight & Longevity
      A 2018 epidemiological study from the Mind & Body Lab at Stanford University suggests that our beliefs (even if inaccurate) about how much we exercise may have a significant impact on our health and longevity. Studying 61,000+ people, the researchers found that people that believed they were inactive (even if their accelerometer data indicated that they got as much exercise as others studied in their age group) were 71% more likely to die early. 
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    • Weight Loss Isn’t About Counting Calories – It’s About Food Quality
      Weight loss advice has long been about counting calories, but a large 2018 study led by Stanford Prevention Research Center casts doubts: It was diet quality (cutting back on sugar, refined grains and processed foods, while focusing on vegetables and whole foods) that led to people losing significant amounts of weight over the course of a year – whether it was a low-fat or low-carb diet. 
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    • Study Suggests Obesity Is Contagious
      A 2018 study from USC and The Rand Corporation indicates that obesity may be “contagious.” Studying military families assigned to diverse U.S. counties with higher and lower rates of obesity (ranging from 21%-38%), each 1 percentage point increase in obesity for that county was associated with a 4-5% subsequent higher rate of obesity in parents and children. 
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    • Fasting Delivers No Weight Loss Benefits Over Traditional Calorie Restriction
      A randomized controlled trial on overweight/obese people (Univ. of Illinois – Chicago, 2017) found that alternate-day fasting offered the exact same weight loss benefits as traditional calorie restriction. Participants were divided into those that did every-other–day fasting or a diet restricted to 75% less daily calories (with a control group eating as usual) – and researchers found that at six months both the fasters and calorie restriction group lost 6.8% of their weight (with no difference in blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.). But the fasters saw the biggest dropout rate. 
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    • Cutting Back on Sugar Turns Metabolic Health of Obese Children Around Fast
      A small, but rigorous study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that for obese children, when you cut back sugar (and even if you don’t cut back on carbs or calories, and no weight is lost) you can turn their metabolic health around in just ten days. Blood pressure (falling 5 points), LDL cholesterol (falling 10 points), and triglycerides (falling 33 points) – and other important health markers – all saw dramatic improvements. The research indicates that it looks to be the sugar (and not the weight gain from eating sugar) that is the health villain – and it’s sugar that’s particularly likely to lead to Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases now rising with children. 
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    • Lifestyle Factors Key to Reducing 2/3 of Alzheimer’s Cases
      The first systematic review of medical studies analyzing the risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease (University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, 2015, 320+ high-quality studies), reveals the powerful role that lifestyle factors (from diet to exercise) play in this costly, crippling disease. Protecting against it involves things like: a healthy diet; folate, Vitamin C and E intake; coffee and fish consumption, and exercising the brain. And the researchers concluded that if 9 risk factors (including obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, etc.) were eliminated, then up to two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases could also be stopped. 
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    • Food Types Dramatically Effect Weight Outcomes
      A large (120,877 universe), 20-year Harvard School of Public Health study on how diet and lifestyle factors (sleep, TV watching, exercise, alcohol use, etc.) affect weight change, countered the conventional “eat less and count calories” wisdom. While exercise revealed the expected benefits, researchers found that the types of food people ate resulted in greater effect than changes in physical activity. Big culprits: french fries, potato chips, sugary beverages and red/processed meats.
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    • Obesity Impacts Cancer Risk
      The first large-scale (2014, 5.24 million people) systematic analysis of the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and risk for common cancers found association between high BMI and 17/22 cancers studied, with 41% of uterine and at least 10% of gallbladder, kidney, liver and colon cancers attributable to excess weight.
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    • Exercise Plus Diet Contribute to More Than Just Weight Loss
      The first systematic Cochrane review (2009) on how exercise impacts bodyweight (43 studies, 3,476 participants) found that exercise combined with diet change resulted in significantly greater weight reduction than diet alone. And exercise alone resulted in significant reductions in diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides and fasting glucose – improved cardiovascular risk factors, even if no weight was lost.
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    • Obesity Affects Longevity
      A large study (2014, 36,611 females) showed that overweight women were significantly more likely to die before 85, develop chronic diseases (such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes), and suffer mobility disability than healthy weight women.
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