Obesity: The 5% Solution

Obesity is likely the most severe health issue in the United States that is also the most eminently curable. It has led to over 120,000 preventable deaths last year, and has ratcheted up the nation's health care costs by $147 billion. A full two-thirds of the American population are counted as obese or overweight.

Many obese people are simply overwhelmed by the prospects of what it could take to achieve their proper weight, and either despair at even beginning a program of diet and exercise, or give up shortly into one. For these people, there is some encouraging news.

A recently published study in the medical journal Cell Metabolism demonstrates how losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight is enough to garner meaningful health benefits. In a randomized, controlled trial of 40 obese test subjects, the risk factors were tabulated after periods of 5%, 10%, and 15% weight loss. Of course, the greater the weight loss, the better the overall metabolic health, but it is important to note that just a 5% reduction in weight was sufficient to reduce multiple risk factors for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Specifically, all of the study participants evidenced meaningful signs of insulin-resistant glucose metabolism, even the subjects who lost just 5% of their body weight. When glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of being absorbed by the cells, the risk of type 2 diabetes skyrockets.

Those in the “5% bracket” also saw a significant improvement in theirbeta cell function, liver function, skeletal muscle and the insulin sensitivity in their fat tissue.

The senior author of the study was Samuel Klein of the Washington University School of Medicine, and he made matters clear: "Taken together, the findings show that 5% weight loss is sufficient to improve health outcomes, with additional weight loss further decreasing risk factors for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases."

Klein and his crew aren't done yet. Future studies are planned to evaluate the effect of progressive weight loss on other obesity-related complications, such as lung disease and arthritis.

Hopefully the results of this new research will be promoted sufficiently that many of the millions of people suffering from obesity will be inspired to undertake even a modest program of diet and exercise. When you begin your program, target a loss of just 5% as your initial goal. We now know that even a little bit can make a huge difference!