November 13, 2018
2 min read

Early weight loss not always indicative of future success

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Weight-loss programs can provide significant benefits, particularly in avoiding weight regain, for those who are consistently engaged long term, according to data presented at the Obesity Week annual meeting.

Nia S. Mitchell

“Many people who participate [in] weight-loss programs can lose weight, but unfortunately, most people regain the weight they initially lost,” Nia S. Mitchell, MD, MPH, assistant professor of the division of general internal medicine and department of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, told Endocrine Today. “This may be because they stop engaging in the behaviors that caused them to lose the weight in the first place.”

Mitchell and colleagues led a retrospective cohort analysis of 2,346 participants of the weight-loss program Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) who enrolled in 2005. Participants were then followed for 7 years, with weight loss monitored each year. The researchers outlined three categories of weight loss: significant weight loss (5% reduction of baseline weight), weight stable (0% to less than 5% reduction in baseline weight) and weight gain (weight change > 0% vs. baseline weight).

Weight, both by percentage of body weight and total kilograms, decreased over time, with a high mark of 8.2 kg and 8.2% body weight lost in year 7.

The number of participants in the significant weight-loss group grew from 1,347 at year 1 to 1,453 at year 7, accounting for 62% of the total population. However, those in the weight-gain group also grew from 14% in year 1 to 18% in year 7.

The researchers noted that 51% of the participants who had significant weight loss at the end of the study did so in all 7 years. Twenty-five percent were weight stable at year 1 and 18% had significant weight loss in year 1 but fell into one of the other categories between years 2 and 6.

“Individuals who were above their initial weight for one or more years continued to renew their annual membership in the TOPS program, and some of them eventually had significant weight loss,” Mitchell told Endocrine Today. “Previous studies and conventional wisdom suggest that people who are successful at weight loss tend [to] lose weight ‘early’ in the process, yet some of the individuals in this study did not have success until at least a year after joining the program. The results also indicate that physicians should encourage people to keep trying to lose weight, even if they do not succeed initially.” – by Phil Neuffer


Mitchell N, et al. T-P-3624. Presented at: ObesityWeek; Nov. 11-15, 2018; Nashville, Tenn.

Disclosure: Mitchell reports this study was funded, in part, by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH.