Weight Loss Slowed Metabolism in “Biggest Loser” Contestants

The Physicians Committee

Weight Loss Slowed Metabolism in “Biggest Loser” Contestants

May 4, 2016


Significant weight loss slows the body’s metabolism, creating an obstacle for weight management, according to a study published online in Obesity. Researchers measured the amount of calories burned while resting and body composition for 14 weight-loss-show contestants at baseline, following the weight-loss competition, and at a six-year follow-up. Those contestants who regained the most weight after the competition and those who successfully kept the weight off experienced slower metabolisms than before the competition. Participants also experienced a drop in several hormones that help regulate hunger. Together, these biological changes and other factors made it difficult for participants to maintain healthful weights. Based on these findings, researchers urge health care professionals to consider the body’s response to weight loss in current obesity treatments.

An earlier study, using a low-fat vegan diet, showed a 16 percent increase in after-meal metabolism (the thermic effect of food) after participants had followed the vegan diet for 14 weeks.

Avoiding high-fat foods in favor of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes is proven to promote both weight loss and weight maintenance. For more information see our Permanent Weight Control fact sheet and Guide to Healthy Weight Loss.

Co-author Kevin Hall, Ph.D., will present his latest obesity research at this year’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine in Washington, D.C., July 29-30, 2016. Register today!

Fothergill E, Guo J, Howard L, et al. Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. Obesity (Silver Spring). Published online May 2, 2016.

Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Turner-McGrievy G, Lanou AJ, Glass J. The effects of a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. Am J Med. 2005;118:991-997.


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