For Obese, Losing a Little Helps a Lot

If obese people lose even a moderate amount of weight, their risk of developing serious health problems, especially heart disease, is dramatically lowered, according to a recent study.     The research, done by doctors at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston, Texas, is good news for the roughly 50 million Americans who suffer from so-called metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that lead to heart disease. A person is said to have this syndrome when he exhibits any three of the following five abnormalities: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood triglyceride levels, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and blood sugar problems (such as insulin resistance or high fasting blood glucose).

“Obesity appears to be the central component of the metabolic syndrome,” said Christie Ballantyne, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center and Baylor College of Medicine. “Our study has shown that weight loss of as little as 6.5 percent in individuals with the disease results in substantial reductions in blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides and total cholesterol, all factors that lead to heart disease.

“These impressive results,” she continued, “occur early in the weight loss, well before individuals even begin to approach their ideal body weight.” Each of the five risk factors involved in the metabolic syndrome can be linked to an elevated risk of heart disease. But the Methodist DeBakey research shows that every one of them was reduced by even a moderate loss of weight – 20 pounds, for example, for a 300-pound person.

Equivalent benefits from drugs likely would have needed three different medications – one each for blood pressure, blood fats (triglycerides and cholesterol) and glucose.
Weight loss beyond the moderate level shows even more significant improvements in both blood pressure and triglycerides.
   
The study shows that weight loss is a powerful weapon to battle the metabolic syndrome’s cardiovascular risk factors, and therefore, the researchers said, should be the first option in the treatment of the disorder.


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