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Just trying to lose weight lowers risk

CDC: Mortality rate is reduced even if no weight is lost

March 3 — A U.S. government health study, published in the American College of Physicians’ Annals of Internal Medicine, has found that overweight people can reduce their risk of death by simply trying to lose weight, regardless of whether they actually succeed in shedding pounds.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tracked the cases of 6,391 overweight and obese people over a nine-year period from 1989 to 1997. They found a 24 percent drop in mortality among people who lost weight intentionally, compared with others who maintained a stable body mass without trying to lose weight. Mortality rates dropped even more, by 30 percent, among those who managed to lose between 2.2 pounds and 19.8 pounds.

Surprisingly, even those who tried to become thinner but failed saw their mortality rates fall 19 percent, leading researchers to theorize on whether the weight loss attempts themselves effected the noted improvements, or whether the attempt to lose weight acts as a marker for other healthful behavior that lowers mortality.

The study provided the clearest evidence yet that intentional weight loss can reduce the risk of death. While links between obesity and life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are very well established, some earlier studies have suggested (but not proven) that losing weight might actually increase mortality. However, researchers pointed out that these earlier findings may have been skewed by unintentional weight loss linked to such health problems as cancer, heart disease and depression, and were therefore unreliable. In the current study, the factor of intentionality was included. Reinforcing this analysis is the fact that people in the study who lost weight unintentionally saw mortality rates shoot up by as much as 77 percent.

These results are good news for people seeking to lose weight. It appears that any conscious attempt at weight loss is beneficial. And successful weight loss brings with it additional benefits.

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