Even modest weight loss brings many health benefits

There have been repeated warnings related to the growing obese and diabetes related population in Australia. Studies have shown that nearly 50% Australians are either obese or overweight and thus suffer from its ill effects like heart disease, high cholesterol and type II diabetes.

Studies have revealed that many of these ill effects of obesity are related to the immune responses of the person. Excess body fat particularly around the middle causes release of pro-inflammatory immune cells which are detrimental to health. In a new report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism today, Garvan Institute researchers have found that even modest weight loss of only six kilograms can reverse many of the ill effects caused by these immune responses.

This study was conducted in 13 obese patients of type II diabetes. They were placed on a calorie restricted diet of between 1000 and 1600 calories a day for 24 weeks, along with gastric banding at 12 weeks. According to lead researchers Dr Alex Viardot and Associate Professor Katherine Samaras from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research modest weight loss as a result of the calorie restricted diet led to an 80 per cent decrease in the number of pro-inflammatory T-helper cells, and reduced activity of other immune cells like T cells, monocytes and neutrophils and decreased activation of macrophages in fat. According to Professor Samaras, “We have found that a modest weight loss of about six kilograms is enough to bring the pro-inflammatory nature of circulating immune cells back to that found in lean people… These inflammatory cells are involved in promoting coronary artery disease and other illnesses associated with obesity… This is the first time it has been shown that modest weight reduction reverses some of the very adverse inflammatory changes we see in obese people with diabetes.”

Thus these researchers believe that instead of dietary supplements and antioxidants more focus should be on losing weight in a healthy way to keep harmful immune responses at bay.

There has been another interesting finding from this study. “It’s the first time this has been described and is important because it helps us understand why some people lose weight more easily than others, and that inflammation is involved in regulating the response to bariatric surgery,” said Samaras. She expressed her happiness at the findings saying, "I was heartened by it, deeply heartened I must say, because most people struggle so much to lose any amount of weight and here we can show a profound benefit with even a small weight reduction….People are spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year buying antioxidants and taking fish oils and all sorts of other things which are supposed to have anti-inflammatory action…A little bit of calorie restriction and a modest amount of weight reduction will have a profound benefit."

Professor Samaras also emphasized on the need for staying within normal weight from the first and avoid becoming obese for the general population.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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