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Timing Matters When It Comes to Weight Loss: Study

Update Date: Oct 25, 2012 09:15 AM EDT

We work really hard to lose those extra pounds which we hate on our bodies. But no matter how hard we work, it's just a glory that lasts for a few days, and there it comes again. The extra weight we just got rid of inevitably comes back.

A new research, a joint project between the University of Michigan and the Argentina-based National Council of Science and Technology (CONICET) may have answers to why the weight comes back.

A research conducted by them on animals shows that the longer mice remained overweight, the more "irreversible" obesity became. Long periods of remaining overweight earlier in life caused the body of the mice to reset its "normal" weight to become permanently elevated, thus remaining overweight. While the dieting works initially to lose pounds, the body soon tries to reach the usual weight, which is already set to being overweight.

"Our model demonstrates that obesity is in part a self-perpetuating disorder and the results further emphasize the importance of early intervention in childhood to try to prevent the condition whose effects can last a lifetime," says senior author Malcolm J. Low, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular and integrative physiology and internal medicine.

"Our new animal model will be useful in pinpointing the reasons why most adults find it exceedingly difficult to maintain meaningful weight loss from dieting and exercise alone."

Obesity affects more than 500 million adults and 43 million children younger than age 5, while related illnesses are the leading preventable cause of death, the report said. Obesity increases a person's risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

One of the significant findings of the study was a new model of obesity-programmed mice that allowed weight loss success to be tracked at different stages and ages by flipping a genetic switch that controls hunger, Medical Xpress reported.

Through this study, researchers found that turning on the switch that controls hunger right after weaning prevented the mice from overeating and ever putting on extra weight.

Also, mice that maintained a normal weight till they reached adulthood by only restricting calorie intake remained that way.

However, mice that were chronically overfed from the beginning could never completely return to normal weight after flipping the switch, even if the calorie intake was reduced and physical activity in them was increased.

The findings of this study question the long-term effects of weight loss programs like "Biggest Loser" and the efforts that people take later in their life, such as extreme regimens.

"Somewhere along the way, if obesity is allowed to continue, the body appears to flip a switch that re-programs to a heavier set weight," Low says. "The exact mechanisms that cause this shift are still unknown and require much further study that will help us better understand why the regaining of weight seems almost unavoidable."

The study appears online ahead of print Oct.24 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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