When it comes to weight loss, watch the blood biomarkers and not the scale

It must be a New Year--the papers and news and magazine websites are full of dire news about the economy, horror stories about obesity, and quick-fix diets for weight loss and detox. While we at Fierce can't single-handedly solve the economic crisis, we can perhaps help you out with your New Year's resolutions to stick to a healthier diet.

For many people going on a diet, immediate weight loss is followed by a stabilization of weight, or even gaining weight again, despite sticking to a new regime of healthy eating. However, according to researchers in Israel, while the weight might not fall off, for those people who continue to eat the right food, the blood biomarkers (and therefore long-term health) do continue to improve.

In Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's two-year Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial (DIRECT), people ate a low-fat, Mediterranean or low-carbohydrate diet. Some biomarkers, including insulin, triglycerides, leptin, chemerin, monocyte-chemotactic-protein-1 (MCP-1), and retinol-binding-protein-4 (RBP4) improved during the rapid weight loss phase (the first 6 months) and then moved in the opposite direction when people regained weight during the weight maintenance/regain phase (months 7-24). However, other biomarkers, including adiponectin, HDL-cholesterol, high-sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP), fetuin-A, progranulin, and vaspin continued to improve throughout the study across all diets despite partial weight gain.

According to BGU Faculty of Health Sciences Professor Assaf Rudich, "[t]his study tells us that we may all have tunnel vision on weight when it comes to healthy dieting. Although maintaining ideal body weight is linked to better health, when it comes to adopting healthier dietary habits in mild to moderately obese people, there are benefits beyond weight loss, such as decreasing inflammatory tone and elevating the 'good cholesterol' HDL."

"There is no doubt that moderate weight loss is an important goal for specific populations, and losing weight will indeed improve several markers that are rather tightly related to fat mass, such as triglycerides, insulin and leptin. These, however, will tend to change similarly to weight dynamics," says Professor Iris Shai, principal investigator of DIRECT and researcher at BGU's S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition. "It is encouraging that adhering to a healthy diet per-se will continue to improve other blood biomarkers."

So healthy eating is about more than just weight loss. This news should provide an impetus to keep eating well and wisely during 2012--just remember to watch the biomarkers and not the scales!

- check out the abstract in Diabetes Care
- see the press release