Weighing scales

It is widely believed that gradual weight loss is better for weight maintenance in the long term, however, research from Australia that specifically investigated whether this is the case showed it not be.

Weight loss is an important aim of people with type 2 diabetes that are overweight. The results of the study therefore has relevance towards health guidelines aimed at people that are overweight and obese, notably including those with type 2 diabetes.

Gradual vs rapid weight loss

The research study, which is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, reviewed two diets, one aimed at gradual weight loss over 36 weeks and another to achieve rapid weight loss over just 12 weeks. 200 participants took part in the trial and were randomly assigned to either the rapid of gradual weight loss diet group.

Participants, which were chosen from obese adults with a BMI of between 30 and 45, were set a target of achieving 15% weight loss. Once participants had achieved 12.5% weight loss, they were put onto a weight maintenance diet for 144 weeks.

No difference in weight regain

The results showed that there was no significant difference between the two weight loss groups in terms of the proportion of people that regained most of the weight they had initially lost. Within both groups, 71% of participants had regained most of the weight they had lost.

Not only was the gradual no better at helping people prevent weight re-gain, the study also found that it was much less effective in terms of achieving the target weight loss than the rapid weight shedding programme. Whilst a modest half of the gradual weight loss group achieved weight loss of 12.5% or more, within the rapid weight loss group, more than 8 out of 10 participants achieved the target.

The researchers concluded that the results of the study do not back up dietary guidelines that advise gradual over rapid weight loss.