Well Being

Diet And Exercise Can’t Help The Obese, Say Researchers

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ScaleA new study conducted by Australian researchers says its all but useless for obese individuals to keep off weight the old-fashioned way—and that's why we should look to gastric bypass surgery as a more common solution.

Despite dieting and exercising away pounds, obese individuals participating in the University of Melbourne study gained most of the weight back in four to five years. Lead researcher Joseph Proietto said this wasn't casued by lack of effort or knowledge on the part of the subjects, but by hormonal changes as their bodies sought to return to what it considered its set weight.

“Once someone becomes overweight, that state is physiologically defended” by the body, wrote Proietto. “This newly discovered biology explains the high failure rate of obesity management.”

Actually, the discovery isn't quite ‘new.' In the 2007 book Rethinking Thin (a book I can't recommend enough for anyone interested in this sort of thing), author Gina Kolata points to ample research of just this sort.

The research shows that individuals have a range of weights, often spanning as much s 20 or 30 pounds, that they can acchieve and sustain. Being at the low end of your range usually means constant vigialance, being at the top can mean throwing all caution to the wind.

[…] But there is another facet to the issue of self-control and obesity. It involves the science that has shown more clearly than ever that most people have limited power over their weight. The research has identified brain pathways that determine how much we eat, and those pathways are just as owerful as brain pathways controlling blood pressure and heart rate.”

Regardless, none of this is the kind of conventional wisdom we're used to hearing about weight loss. So .. what? Do we just give up?

Not so fast, says Procietto—why don't we, as a society, devote some of the energy we use to promote diet and exercise to reducing barriers and increasing access to weight-loss surgery for anyone who wants it?

But aside from being politically contentious, is that even practical? If our brains are really wired (perhaps prenatally) to maintain a set weight, wouldn't they still try to do so, even after substantial weight loss via bariatric surgery? Researchers aren't sure. Trials of bariatric surgery have found weight loss of 21 to 38 percent in patients up to 10 years after the procedures. But because of the newness of these procedures, results beyond that are unavailable.