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Researchers compare diet pills, fasting to improved diet

Researchers say that fasting and weight loss drugs tend not to create as sustainable results as adjusting diet and exercise habits.
Researchers compare diet pills, fasting to improved diet
Posted at 12:33 PM, May 03, 2023

A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association studied weight loss strategies between those with and without a recent history of clinically significant weight loss. 

The study from the Ohio State University found that greater adherence to the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 was observed among those who lost at least 5% of their body weight compared to those who tried alternative methods of losing weight. 

The AHA’s Life Essential 8 encourages people to eat better, be more active, quit tobacco, get healthy sleep, manage weight, control cholesterol, manage blood sugar and manage blood pressure. 

In a study of nearly 20,000 adults, the average score was 60 out of 100 on adherence to Life’s Essential 8. 

While those who adhered to Life’s Essential 8 tended to do better with weight loss, and thus cardiovascular health, the study found that those who tended to skip meals and take prescription diet pills had minimal weight loss.

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"Based on the findings in this study, we have a lot of work to do as a country," said senior study author Dr. Colleen Spees. "Even though there were significant differences on several parameters between the groups, the fact remains that as a whole, adults in this country are not adopting the Life's Essential 8 behaviors that are directly correlated with heart health."

Researchers said 17,465 individuals had lost less than 5% of their body weight, maintained their weight or gained weight in the past year, while 2,840 reported an intentional loss of at least 5% of their body weight.

"Clinically significant weight loss results in improvements in some health indices," Spees said. "People should feel hopeful in knowing that losing just 5% of their body weight is meaningful in terms of clinical improvements. This is not a huge weight loss. It's achievable for most, and I would hope that incentivizes people instead of being paralyzed with a fear of failure."

Spees said the use of weight loss pills and alternative forms of weight loss are "not sustainable." She said changing behaviors and eating patterns are more sustainable for losing weight.

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In the U.S., obesity rates have gradually increased year after year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33% of American adults were considered obese in 2021. That’s up from 27% in 2011. The CDC also noted jumps in adolescent and childhood obesity in the U.S. from 2011-19.

It’s widely known that obesity leads to a number of health concerns, including heart disease, cancer and overall poor health. 

Spees outlined that prevention is key, which can be helped by improved diet and activity levels.

"We absolutely need to be moving toward prevention of disease versus waiting until people are diagnosed with a disease. This becomes quite overwhelming, and individuals may feel it’s too late at that point," she said.

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