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Researchers Use Biggest Loser Contestants To Study Effects of Exercise and Dieting

By Rob Poulos...

With more than two-thirds of American adults over the age of 20 facing overweight or obese conditions, it is no wonder diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, strokes and even certain cancers are rising in occurrence. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel, say researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The recent studies they’ve conducted, using contestants from the popular health show The Biggest Loser, show exercise key in reducing body fat and along with healthy diets, preserve the muscle in adults more effectively than dieting by itself. This television show follows a group of obese adults, who began a rigorous exercise regimen and extreme diet to lose weight quickly under isolated conditions on a ranch and continued the plan at home.

Senior researchers Kevin Hall, PhD., studied the use of heavy daily exercise and a very limited type of diet would have on on an obese adult. Studying 11 of the program’s participants who volunteered to be a part of the study, this cost-effective opportunity provided a wealth of information. None of the researchers had any ties to the program, which helped lend credibility to the findings.

Scientists took several measurements, including body fat, energy expended and resting metabolic rates at three different stages of the competition: at the beginning, at the six week point and at week 30, when the participants had been home for at least 17 weeks. By taking part in the program, the median weight loss was 128 pounds, approximately 82% of which came from body fat. The rest came from lean muscle tissues. This was important because lean tissue needs to be maintained as much as possible to reduce risks associated with injuries and to maintain strength in an individual.

Hall and his associates then used a mathematical formula, resulting in a computer representation of the human metabolism system to calculate dieting and exercising changes that contributed to the body’s weight loss. Since The Biggest Loser did not specifically address how much exercise and diet by themselves were responsible for the over all weight loss, the computer model would simulate the results of dieting alone and exercise alone to come up with their contributions.

When the show was over, dieting alone was shown to be responsible for more loss of weight than exercise. However, the model also showed that exercise alone resulted in the participants losing fat only, no muscle. The results of the simulation also showed that the contestants could maintain their weight loss and keep from re-gaining it by taking on moderate lifestyle changes, including 20 minutes of strenuous exercise and a cut of 20% of their calorie allocation, rather than the extreme measures taken by the show.

The bottom line, says the director of NIDDK, Dr. Griffin Rogers, is that the study simply reinforces what we already know. It showed a healthy diet and daily exercise is, indeed, needed to prevent obesity and prevent the associated conditions from developing. It also demonstrates how the science that is metabolism and mathematical modeling can be combined to make sound recommendations for continual and long-term weight loss, based on a person’s unique conditions.

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