For many patients who have tried multiple times to reach and maintain their desired weight, losing large amounts of weight can seem like an insurmountable task. Instead of getting discouraged, it’s important to focus on more than just the number you see on the scales and remember the range of potential health benefits you could see by sticking with your weight loss program over the long term.
Here’s five potential health benefits of losing just 10% of your body weight that are worth discussing with your doctor.
Losing a little over 10% of body weight may help reverse diabetes and return pre-diabetes blood sugar levels to normal. One study reported in the Lancet Medical Journal found that nearly half of the people with diabetes on a GP-based weight loss program did not have the disease a year later, prompting calls for more medical weight loss management as a routine part of primary care.
One of the benefits of doctor-based programs, is that you are accountable to someone other than yourself. That person also has a medical background which is useful in the treatment of weight-gain related diseases such as thyroid disease, depression and diabetes, which can all be factors affecting your weight and where diet alone may not be suitable.
Improve blood pressure
Losing 10% of your body weight can significantly improve blood pressure and heart health. In fact every 1kg of weight loss improves blood pressure by 1 point, according to research in the journal Hypertension. There are genetic variances for how your weight can impact your blood pressure too. Some people can put on 10kg of weight with no impact on blood pressure, but if you’re someone with blood pressure that is very “weight sensitive”, gaining or losing 5kg can make a big difference.
So how does keeping weight on track help protect our heart and blood pressure?
High blood pressure can increase your heart attack risk significantly by causing cellular changes to the lining of the arteries which allows plaque to block them. Raised blood pressure makes the heart work harder and the force of blood pumping around the body can cause the left ventricle to enlarge or stiffen, which can cause heart failure. High blood pressure is also closely linked to vascular dementia due to limited blood flow as well as torn blood vessels in the eye that can cause vision loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. So for all these reasons, maintaining a stable weight is one of the best things you can do to keep your ticker on track.
Reversing weight gain before pregnancy is not only useful for natural conception, but also assists with improving outcomes of fertility treatments. While one study of 600 women in Epidemiology found that women with a BMI of more than 27 were three times more likely to be infertile than women of a healthy weight - the good news is that weight loss may reverse this.
A study in the American Society of Reproductive Medicine found that losing 10% of body weight increased conception rates from 54 to 88%. And another study in the Journal Of Human Reproductive Science found that gradual, sustained weight loss could also assist with the outcomes of fertility treatments.
Excess weight is an important consideration in the preconception period because it can cause anovulation, where no egg is released by the ovary for women.
Weight gain can also be an indicator of a hormonal imbalance caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a condition which both hinders your ability to lose weight and also disrupts regular ovulation.
Weight should also be factored in for men in the fertility equation, as one Harvard School of Public Health study found that obese men have a significantly lower sperm count than men of a healthy weight.
Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
While 10% weight loss is the goal for many pursuing medical weight loss options, even 5% weight loss has been shown to significantly lower breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women according to research on 930,000 women reported by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2018.
So how does weight actually cause breast cancer as well as 12 other cancers that weight gain is linked to?
Obesity increases insulin resistance, which leads to the pancreas producing more insulin which can in turn promote the growth of cancer cells. As every 5 point increase in BMI, equates to a 12% increased risk of breast cancer in menopausal women, losing even a small amount of weight can significantly reduce the weight/cancer risk.
Reduce knee pain
For patients with niggling knee pain, losing weight can be a powerful weapon in the pain reduction arsenal, and can also reduce the need for knee surgery down track. Studies show that every 1kg of weight loss equates to a fourfold reduction of knee joint stress/load.
On the other hand, a 2018 Arthritis Australia submission into the obesity epidemic in Australia has found that being overweight doubles the risk of knee pain, while being obese triples the risk of knee pain. It also found that more than half of obese patients undergoing knee replacement have poor outcomes, compared to 10% of healthy weight people and that excess weight in early adulthood increases the risk of knee replacement by 25%.
So when it comes to keeping the load off your weight-bearing joints, know that yes that even a little weight loss can make a big difference.
Medical options for Australians trying to lose weight
If you’re an Australian with a BMI over 30, it’s important to discuss your weight with a doctor, especially if you have had difficulty keeping weight off with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise in the past.
Rosemary Health’s doctor-guided weight loss program combines daily medication and 1:1 medical monitoring with a multidisciplinary team which may help address factors such as diet, psychological and physical issues linked to weight gain.
For patients considered severely obese, such as those with a BMI over 40, a referral to a bariatric surgeon to discuss surgical options may be recommended.
Learn more and start a discussion with our doctors to find out if this weight loss program may be suitable for you.