Stanford study identifies what influences weight loss the most

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Researchers at Stanford University have identified a number of factors that could predict how successful a person will be at losing weight and keeping it off.

A Stanford Medicine study, published December 13, 2022, in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Reports Medicine, says that some people are better at losing weight on low-fat diets, while others will see better results on low-carb diets.

How well a person sticks to their diet will influence how much weight they lose, as well as the types of bacteria that live in their gut, the amount of certain proteins the body produces, and the amount of carbon dioxide they exhale. a person, the researchers say.

“Weight loss is enigmatic and complicated, but we can predict early on with microbiome and metabolic biomarkers who will lose more weight and who will not gain it back,” said Michael Snyder, chair of Stanford Medicine’s department of genetics and co-senior author. of the article, said in an article published Jan. 4 by Stanford Medicine.

The study focused on data from a previous year-long study on weight loss that involved 609 people, who ate a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet of mostly high-calorie, minimally processed foods. quality.

The research also tracked how much exercise the participants got, how well they followed their diets and their calorie intake.

The study authors found that simply cutting calories or exercising was not enough to maintain weight loss for a year.

“We found specific ecologies of microbiomes and amounts of proteins and enzymes at the beginning of the study period, before people started to follow the diet, that indicated whether they would be successful in losing weight and keeping it off,” said Dalia Perelman, a research dietitian. and co-lead author of the article.

The researchers also measured the ratio of inhaled oxygen to exhaled carbon dioxide, which they say can determine whether the body prefers to burn carbohydrates or fat as its primary fuel, with a higher ratio meaning the body burns more carbohydrates and a higher ratio lower means you burn more fat.

Those who started their diets with a higher ratio lost more weight on a low-carb diet, the researchers say.

If a person’s diet is higher in fat, even though their body prefers to burn carbohydrates, the researchers say it will be more difficult to burn those calories.

Ultimately, they say, a diet that works for one person may not be right for another.

“There are people who may be eating very few calories but still maintaining their weight because of the way their bodies metabolize fuels,” Perelman said. “It’s not a lack of will. It’s just how their bodies work.”

The study, the researchers say, could lead to personalized weight loss plans.

Without being able to trace their own strains of gut microbes, the study says people should focus on eating high-quality, unprocessed foods that are low in refined flour and sugar.

Low-carb diets should contain monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, and be rich in vitamins C, E, and K, which are found in vegetables and nuts, as well as avocados.

Meanwhile, low-fat diets should contain foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grains and legumes, and low in added sugar.

Both strategies, the researchers say, correlate with weight loss in the first six months of a diet.

“Your mindset should be focused on what you can include in your diet rather than what you can exclude,” Perelman said. “Find out how to eat more fiber, whether it’s from beans, whole grains, nuts or vegetables, instead of thinking you shouldn’t eat ice cream. Learn to cook and rely less on processed foods. If you pay attention to the quality of food in your diet, then you can forget about counting calories.

Some limitations of the study include that participants generally have a higher level of education, “with good access to many food options.”

Some ethnic and racial groups are underrepresented, although the large number of study participants helped address this problem, the researchers say.

The microbiome data also involved a smaller proportion of participants.

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