When thinking about weight-loss, one often has an “ideal” body weight in mind or an ultimate weight-loss goal. It’s very common for people to think that unless they lose dozens of pounds, they will not be any healthier. This is a misconception. Studies have shown that health benefits resulting from weight-loss are evident with a weight reduction as low as 5-10 per cent. This means that an individual that weighs 200 pounds will benefit greatly from losing 10 to 20 pounds.
There’s scientific evidence that many obesity-related conditions improve with a 5-10 per cent weight-loss. Let’s look at these related conditions and see how modest weight-loss may greatly improve them and your overall quality of health:
Although we have good medications that decrease our 'bad' cholesterol also called LDL cholesterol, doctors and patients alike know how hard it is to increase the 'good' cholesterol otherwise known as HDL cholesterol even by a few points.
A 5-10 per cent weight-loss can result in a five point increase in HDL cholesterol. This deserves applause as raising HDL by these few points can lower the risk of an individual developing heart disease. HDL cholesterol of more than 40 mg/dl for men and more than 50 mg/dl for women is protective against heart disease.
There are other fat-like particles in the blood that are harmful in elevated amounts. They are called triglycerides. People with high triglycerides are at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes among other problems. A normal level should be below 150 mg/dl, while anything above 200 mg/dl is considered high.
Losing 5-10 per cent of body weight was shown to decrease triglycerides by an average of 40 mg/dl, which is a significant drop. This level can further improve with exercise, a diet low in concentrated sugars, carbohydrates and fats as well as with reduction of excessive alcohol intake.
Excess body weight accounts for about 25-30 per cent of cases of hypertension. As body weight increases, it causes haemodynamic abnormalities and other changes that result in elevated blood pressure. By losing 5-10 per cent of one’s weight, blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, decrease by 5 mmHg on average. In conjunction with a salt restricted diet, rich in vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy, this weight-loss could be potentially even higher.
One of the laboratory markers used to screen for diabetes and to monitor its treatment is called Haemoglobin A1C. The normal level should be below 6.5. Research has shown that a 5-10 per cent weight-loss can decrease this marker by half a point on average. This comes close to the effect that some anti-diabetic pills have on blood sugars.
Another condition that is seen with weight gain is a phenomenon called insulin resistance. In this disorder, the pancreas produces larger than normal amounts of a hormone called insulin. Insulin is responsible for keeping blood sugar levels normal. In this condition, high levels of insulin are needed because tissues are resistant to its effects.
When someone has insulin resistance, the resulting high levels of insulin in the blood cause an increase in fat tissue especially in the waist area, abnormal cholesterol, and sometimes a change in certain hormone levels in women that causes male pattern hair growth and infertility. Modest weight-loss was found to significantly decrease insulin levels and thus to help with reversing these conditions.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder commonly diagnosed in patients affected by excess weight that snore or gasp for air during sleep. It’s caused by pauses and gaps in breathing during sleep and results in insufficient oxygenation. This causes fatigue and sleepiness during the day. It also is responsible for making certain diseases less responsive to treatment, like hypertension for example.
In studies looking at the effect of excess weight on cells of the human body, it was found that fat cells and especially abdominal fat cells produce a large number of substances that result in inflammation in blood vessels. This inflammation then can result in plaques and clots and turn into strokes and heart attacks. When weight-loss achieves a level of 10 per cent, the levels of inflammatory substances circulating in the blood drop significantly and therefore the risk of vascular damage is reduced as well.
All these improvements caused by weight-loss as low as 5-10 per cent ultimately lead to very significant benefits including a lesser chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Now, the next question that comes to mind is since we know that a 5-10 per cent weight-loss is very beneficial, how can it be achieved?
First and foremost, weight-loss starts with lifestyle changes: diet and exercise. The first step is to talk to your local dietitian - ask your GP for a referral for weight management. There are many ways to lose weight, but the most successful way is to lose weight and keep it off is as part of a group, look for support from others around you to make these changes permanent.
And now for some healthy recipes to help change these theories into a reality….
Sesame Chicken Salad
2 skinless chicken breasts
85g frozen soya beans
1 large carrot, finely cut into thin matchsticks
4 spring onions, finely sliced
140g cherry tomatoes, halved
small bunch coriander, chopped
small handful Thai or ordinary basil leaves, chopped if large
85g herb or baby salad leaves
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
For the dressing
grated zest and juice 1 small lime
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
1.Put the chicken in a pan and pour over cold water to cover. Tip the soya beans into a steamer. Bring the pan to a gentle simmer, then cook the chicken for 8 mins with the beans above.
2.Meanwhile, mix the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. When the chicken is cooked, slice and toss in the dressing along with the beans, carrot, onions, tomatoes, coriander and basil. Mix really well, pile onto the salad leaves and sprinkle with the sesame seeds
Spiced Singapore Noodles with Cauliflower, Chicken and Prawns
juice ½ lemon
2 tbsp medium curry powder
300g cauliflower florets
100g skinless chicken breasts, diced
100g spring onions, whites and greens separately sliced
200g white cabbages, cut into chunks
25g fresh red chillies, finely chopped
100g straight-to-wok fine rice noodles (I use Amoy)
50g raw peeled prawns, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp golden caster sugar
5g coriander leaves
1.Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the lemon juice with ½ tbsp of the curry powder and toss with the cauliflower on the baking tray. Roast for 25-30 mins until tender and slightly golden.
2.Heat a non-stick wok or frying pan and add the chicken, spring onion whites, cabbage, red chilli, remaining curry powder and a splash of water. Fry, adding splashes of water if it starts sticking or looking dry, until the chicken is cooked through and the cabbage is softening. Add the noodles, prawns, soy sauce and sugar, and fry for another few mins until piping hot and the prawns are cooked. Scatter over the spring onion greens, roasted cauliflower and coriander leaves, and serve