By Natalie San Luis
Weight loss has been linked to better heart health, but a recent study indicated that the benefits of dropping pounds may depend on whether they stay off.
Researchers looked at a trial of overweight and obese women who were given weight loss plans or advice.
These researchers found that women who had lost 10 percent of their body weight after 24 months had significantly improved heart and metabolism risk factors.
Cynthia Thomson, PhD, RD, Director of the University of Arizona Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention & Health Promotion, led this study on weight loss in women and heart disease.
Obesity, or the state of being extremely overweight, is a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
According to the researchers, even modest weight loss can lead to improvements in certain risk factors for heart disease.
This study looked at the effects of weight loss on heart health among overweight and obese women. Specifically, the researchers examined the long-term effects of weight loss.
A total of 446 overweight or obese women were recruited, and 417 completed the trial.
These participants received either a weight loss program delivered in person or through the telephone, or they received "usual care" consisting of minimal diet counseling for 24 months.
The authors of this study noted that women in the structured weight loss program lost more weight, a conclusion that had been reached in a previous analysis of the trial.
Blood sugar, cholesterol, insulin levels and other outcomes were measured at baseline, after 12 months and after 24 months.
After 12 months, the women had lost an average of 8.6 percent of their baseline weight. After 24 months, the women were down from their baseline weight by an average of 6.6 percent.
Additionally, at the 12 months follow-up, 167 women had lost at least 10 percent of their initial body weight.
The researchers found that, for every 10 percent of body weight lost, there was a significant reduction in insulin and blood sugar, as well as a significant reduction in cholesterol.
In the women who lost at least 10 percent of their body weight, inflammation was significantly reduced as well.
A total of 130 women had lost 10 percent or more of their body weight at 24 months after baseline.
The researchers found that long-term reductions in blood sugar, triglycerides (fat levels in blood) and insulin levels were only evident in women who were down 10 percent or more of their body weight at the 24-month follow-up.
Fitness of the heart and lungs, which is known to improve with regular exercise, improved over time regardless of the amount of weight loss.
The authors of this study concluded that weight loss of 10 percent or more of body weight among overweight or obese women led to a significant reduction in heart disease risk factors.
This study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on December 18.
The research was supported by Jenny Craig, Inc. The authors did not disclose conflicts of interest.