New research released tomorrow in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that people fail to lose weight on diets, more because of hormone imbalances than lack of will power.

The crux of the problem is that as a person loses weight, especially in more aggressive dieting, the body changes the hormones its producing, adjusting for the loss in fat reserves, and promoting a stronger urge to eat more and replace the reserves.

The author of the study Joseph Proietto of the University of Melbourne in Australia, said in an email :

“People who regain weight should not be harsh on themselves, as eating is our most basic instinct.”

The research suggests that it’s a persistent biological urge to maintain fat stores and body weight, which is logical when you think about it, since the days of supermarkets and restaurants on every corner date back less than a century. For thousands of years before that food supplies were far from guaranteed so the survival of a person relied in part on what they could carry with them so to speak.

Dieters regaining lost weight is a very normal problem for dieters. Prietto and his research assistants studied 50 overweight or obese patients in Australia over a 10 week diet program, to find out what happened after the patients lost at least ten percent of their body weight.

It was an intensive program and on average those involved lost upto 30 pounds over the 10 weeks, which is faster than the suggested one to two pounds per week. They consumed only 500 to 550 calories per day by using a meal replacement supplement called Optifast, and eating vegetables. At the end of the 8th week other foods were gradually re-introduced into their diet.

After the program was over, the patients were given counseling and advice on how to maintain the weight loss, but even so, on average put on twelve pounds over the following year.

Researchers also monitored blood levels of nine different hormones known to influence appetite, finding that even a year after the end of the weight-loss program, six of the hormones were still out of balance.

Experts not involved with the study said the persistent effect on hormone levels wasn’t surprising, and noted that it wasn’t necessarily down to the more aggressive speed of the weight loss.

The study’s conclusion :

“It’s better not to gain weight than to try to lose it.”

Written by Rupert Shepherd