May 07, 2020
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Wearing heavyweight vest reduces fat mass, body weight among adults with obesity

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Claes Ohlsson
Claes Ohlsson

Adults with obesity who wore a heavyweight vest — corresponding to 11% of their body weight — daily for 3 weeks experienced a reduction in body weight and fat mass compared with similar adults who wore a 1% lightweight vest, according to data from a proof-of-concept study.

“Until recently, the only known homeostatic regulator of fat mass was the fat-derived hormone leptin,” Claes Ohlsson, MD, PhD, professor at the Institute of Medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy, Gothenburg University, Sweden, told Healio. “However, we have recently published evidence that there is a loading-dependent homeostatic regulation of body weight and fat mass, named the gravitostat, supported by the finding that increased loading using weight capsules reversibly decreased body weight and fat mass in obese rodents. The aim of the present proof-of-concept translational study was to investigate if artificially increased weight loading decreases biological body weight among humans with obesity.”

John-Olov Jansson
John-Olov Jansson

In a randomized, single-center study, Ohlsson and colleagues analyzed data from 69 of 72 adults with a BMI between 30 kg/m² and 35 kg/m². Researchers randomly assigned participants to wear a heavyweight vest corresponding to 11% of the person’s body weight (high load; n = 35; mean age, 50 years; 24 women) or a lightweight vest corresponding to 1% of the person’s body weight (low load; n = 37; mean age, 49 years; 30 women). Researchers asked participants to wear the weighted vests for at least 8 hours per day for 3 weeks; participants recorded the time spent wearing the vests each day and time spent wearing the vest while standing. Body weight was measured at baseline and at 3 weeks; researchers also assessed bioelectrical impedance analysis of total body fat mass, fat free mass and fat percentage. Energy intake was assessed via a validated food questionnaire. Primary outcome was percent change from baseline in body weight in the high-load group vs. the low-load group. Secondary outcomes were change in body fat mass and fat free mass.

At 3 weeks, researchers found that participants who wore the heavy-load vests experienced a mean weight loss of –1.68% (95% CI, –2.09 to –1.27), whereas weight loss among those in the low-load group was not statistically significant. Mean difference was –1.37% (95% CI, –1.96 to –0.79).

Adults with obesity who wore heavyweight vests vs. lightweight vests
Adults with obesity who wore a heavyweight vest — corresponding to 11% of their body weight — daily for 3 weeks experienced a reduction in body weight and fat mass compared with similar adults who wore a 1% lightweight vest.

In an analysis of absolute change in body weight, researchers again found that those in the heavy-load group experienced an average 1.31 kg weight loss (95% CI, –1.84 to –0.78) compared with the low-load group.

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Compared with participants who wore lightweight vests, those who wore heavyweight vests also experienced reduced fat mass (–4.04%; 95% CI, –6.53 to –1.55).

“These findings demonstrate that there is a weight loading-dependent homeostatic regulation of body weight, the gravitostat, also in humans,” John-Olov Jansson MD, PhD, professor at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the Sahlgrenska Academy, Gothenburg University, Sweden, told Healio. “Treatments targeting this mechanism may be useful in the treatment of obesity.”

The researchers proposed that the observed decrease in biological body weight is a compensatory effect to partly restore total body weight after increased weight loading.

“We want to study whether, in wearers of weighted vests, changed energy expenditure, appetite and mobility help them to lose weight,” Jansson said. “We also want to assess whether the weight reduction continues for the vest wearers over periods longer than 3 weeks, and whether visceral fat is reduced by the treatment.” – by Regina Schaffer

For more information:

Claes Ohlsson, MD, PhD, can be reached at the Centre for Bone and Arthritis Research, Vita Stråket 11, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, 413 45 Gothenburg, Sweden; email: claes.ohlsson@medic.gu.se.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.