Moderate weight loss improves heart function in obese

Obese patients who lost a moderate amount of weight by eating less and exercising more improved their cardiovascular health, revealed by researchers.

A 2 years study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, published in the Dec. 15, 2009, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study showed that weight loss led to improvement in four key measures of heart and vascular health.

The improvements seen in the study participants included decreased thickness of heart muscle, improved pumping and relaxation functions of the heart and decreased thickness of the carotid artery walls.

Heart muscle thickening and impaired pumping and relaxation functions are predictors of heart failure, and increased carotid wall thickness is a predictor of plaque formation.

The researchers studied 60 moderately obese individuals at regular intervals. During the study, the subjects were instructed to eat low-calorie diets (1,200 to 1,500 calories for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories for men) and to exercise for about three and a half hours per week, principally walking.

On average, they lost weight for about six months, reaching a maximum loss of nine percent body weight or 22 pounds.

“Losing 20 or so pounds might seem daunting to some people, but we showed that even a more modest weight loss can yield heart and vascular benefits,” says first author Lisa de las Fuentes, M.D., a Washington University heart specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and assistant professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division at the School of Medicine. “It’s important to realize that you can choose goals that are attainable and work progressively toward them. You don’t necessarily need to lose 50 pounds to improve your heart function.”

The study participants were randomly assigned to either low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets. Both diet groups experienced similar improvements in heart and vascular measurements. That’s reassuring for people who prefer one type of diet over the other, says de las Fuentes.

“Over time, obesity leads to abnormal thickening of heart muscle because the heart works harder to pump blood throughout the body,” de las Fuentes says. “After a while, the hearts of obese people can lose some of their pumping or relaxation ability, leading to heart failure. But our study suggests that by losing weight, people can turn back the clock and regain more youthful heart function.”

The study participants generally were not at a weight eligible for bariatric surgeries such as laparoscopic gastric banding or gastric bypass, so it’s important that the study demonstrates a program of diet and exercise to achieve moderate weight loss can improve heart health, de las Fuentes says.

Source: Washington University School of Medicine, USA



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