While overweight Americans have heard for years that losing weight would mean a healthier life, two psychologists have added some important numbers to that premise. For someone such as myself who has struggled with the scale since early childhood, those numbers are surprisingly positive: Lose 20 pounds and live 10 years longer.
Results of the psychologists' study were presented at the 120th annual convention of the American Psychological Association. The psychologists are Rena Wing, Ph.D., of Brown University's Alpert Medical School and the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at The Miriam Hospital, and Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., of Yale University, according to Medical News Today.
Experts consider the increase in obesity rates in the United States over the last two decades an epidemic. More than a third of adults and around 17 percent of children are obese, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency indicates that the region with the greatest prevalence of obesity is the South, at 29.4 percent. Not far behind are the Midwest (28.7), the Northeast (24.9), and the West (24.1).
Wing worked on the Diabetes Prevention Program, a project that involved 27 clinical centers throughout the country, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. All 3,234 participants in the study were pre-diabetic. Those who made changes in activity and diet and who received behavior-modification coaching cut their risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60 percent. For subjects at least 60 years old, the figure was 71 percent.
The most startling information was Wing's observation that the health benefits linked to losing weight lasted up to 10 years, even if the person regained the weight during that period. This conclusion follows the widely held belief that losing just 10 percent of body weight can provide major health benefits.
Wing is currently leading a clinical trial with 5,000 subjects who have Type 2 diabetes. The 13-year project seeks to discover whether intensive behavioral intervention can cut the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
The researchers have also been intrigued by the potentially addictive properties of food. Brownell indicated that they need to determine whether some foods -- especially those high in sugar -- affect the brain to the point of causing addiction. Various studies have already shown craving and withdrawal symptoms in both animal and human brains. Brownell suggested that if researchers are able to confirm addictive properties, new laws might appear to regulate the content of food and the marketing of certain types to children.
Like many Americans, I have painful memories of childhood obesity. I continually struggle, shedding and then regaining pounds. Losing 20 pounds would put me within a healthy weight range. Quantifying a weight loss and its benefits -- 20 pounds to gain 10 years -- is a motivator to finally drop the extra weight.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- Kelly Brownell
- Alpert Medical School