Weight Loss and Weight Management – American Society for Nutrition

Weight loss

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports, “obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese.”  In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 40% of the adult population has obesity, placing them at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
Unfortunately, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t easy.  A 2020 review published in The BMJ, for example, analyzed the effect over time of 14 named diets on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors, working with 121 eligible trials and 21,942 patients.  According to the study’s findings, “most macronutrient diets, over six months, result in modest weight loss and substantial improvements in cardiovascular risk factors.”  However, the authors also discovered that “at 12 months, the effects on weight reduction and improvements in cardiovascular risk factors largely disappear.”
The key to sustainable healthy weight loss and weight management remains elusive.  Nonetheless, nutrition researchers around the world continue to conduct studies in search of a viable solution, often publishing their results in ASN Journals so that other researchers can expand upon their research and healthcare providers and public health professionals can apply their results in practice.  Below are highlights from all four ASN Journals, exploring the link between nutrition and healthy weight loss and weight management.
Influence of Protein Intake, Race, and Age on Responses to a Weight-Reduction Intervention in Obese Women, Current Developments in Nutrition, April 2017
The goal of healthy weight loss is to arrive at a weight that supports optimal physical function.  Weight loss, however, can result in the loss of lean muscle mass and a corresponding loss in physical function.  In response, ASN member Connie W. Bales et al. conducted a six-month randomized controlled trial to compare the effects of a higher protein diet of 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight versus a diet with the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  Specifically, the authors looked at the diets’ effect on physical function and lean muscle mass among 80 women, aged 45 to 78, with obesity.  The results of the study “support the feasibility of implementation of a meal-balanced, higher-protein diet for obesity reduction.”  Nonetheless, the authors found that “the hypothesis that the high-protein weight-loss group would achieve greater improvements in function and lean mass was not confirmed by a significant group effect.”  In light of these results, the authors believe, “future studies in larger numbers of participants are warranted in both men and women, and especially in older age groups.”
The Effectiveness of Breakfast Recommendations on Weight Loss: A Randomized Controlled Trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2014
Observational evidence suggests an association between breakfast consumption and a lower body weight; however, this does not preclude the possibility that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less because of other factors associated with breakfast eating.  In response, Emily J. Dhurandhar et al. conducted a 16-week randomized controlled trial among 309 otherwise healthy overweight and obese adults aged 20 to 65.  The authors compared weight change in a control group with weight change in two experimental groups: one was told to eat breakfast and the other to skip breakfast.  According to the authors’ findings, “a recommendation to eat or skip breakfast for weight loss was effective at changing self-reported breakfast eating habits, but contrary to widely espoused views, this had no discernable effect on weight loss.”  The authors recommend that future research “assess whether more specific recommendations with regard to the timing and quantity of meals or meal compositions might improve weight-loss outcomes.”
Meal Frequency and Timing Are Associated with Changes in Body Mass Index in Adventist Health Study 2, The Journal of Nutrition, July 2017
ASN member Hana Kahleova et al. analyzed data from more than 50,000 men and women aged 30 and above who participated in the Adventist Health Study 2 to determine the relationship between meal frequency and timing and BMI.  The results of their study suggest that “eating less frequently (and eating no snacks), consuming breakfast, and eating the largest meal in the morning may be effective long-term preventive tools against weight gain.”  Study results also demonstrated that participants who typically had the longest overnight fasts (18 hours or longer) were more likely to have a lower BMI compared to participants who had shorter overnight fasts.  Although meal patterns emphasizing eating less frequently, consuming breakfast, and fasting for a longer period overnight were associated with a lower  BMI, the authors noted certain individuals, particularly older adults with chronic disease, may need to choose meal patterns that are more likely to promote weight gain.
Does Glycemic Index Matter for Weight Loss and Obesity Prevention? Examination of the Evidence on ‘Fast’ Compared with ‘Slow’ Carbs, Advances in Nutrition, August 2021
Popular diets such as the Paleo and the Keto diets stress the consumption of low-glycemic index foods.  The question is, do diets that stress low-glycemic index foods actually help individuals lose weight and maintain a healthy weight?  To thoroughly address that question, ASN member Glenn A. Gaesser et al. reviewed 35 relevant observational cohort studies, with data from 1,940,968 adults.  In addition, the authors reviewed the findings from 30 meta-analyses of relevant randomized controlled trials.  The authors found that “data from observational cohort studies show no consistent association between BMI and dietary glycemic index.”  In addition, their review of randomized controlled trials provided “little support for the notion that low-glycemic index diets are superior for weight loss.”  One explanation for the authors’ findings may be rooted in how glycemic index values are calculated.  The authors contend that “glycemic index is an imprecise measure of the glycemic response of a food when applied to foods in a meal.”
If you are currently researching the link between nutrition and healthy weight loss and weight management, please consider publishing your research findings in one of the four ASN Journals.  We will ensure that your research is quickly disseminated around the world so that we can continue to build our knowledge in this critical area of nutrition research.
Eric Graber is a freelance copy writer and marketing consultant, working primarily for publishers and professional associations in science and medicine.  He has a BA in Spanish Literature from Columbia University and an MBA in marketing from NYU Stern School of Business.
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