Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have found that adapting a healthy diet, even when there’s weight gain, is crucial to staying in good physical shape.

Iris Shai

Photo by Dani Machlis/BGU
Iris Shai.

The scientists reported that long-term healthy dietary interventions frequently induce a rapid weight decline in the first six months followed by weight stabilization or regain, despite continued dieting. The partial regain often discourages people from adhering to healthier dietary habits.

Assaf Rudich

Photo by Dani Machlis/BGU
Assaf Rudich.

An Israeli-German study –published in Diabetes Care — identified two distinct biomarker patterns in their correspondence to weight change, one of which continues to improve with time.

“This study tells us that we may have all been too tunnel-viewed 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,” said Faculty of Health Sciences Prof. Assaf Rudich.

“In obesity, health benefits of persistently switching to healthier dieting extend beyond the single outcome of weight loss,” Rudich continued. “In fact, important improvements that likely signify decreased risk for cardiovascular disease occur even despite weight regain, as long as dieting persists.”

The study was conducted among 322 participants during the two-year Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial (DIRECT) performed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Nuclear Research Center Negev.

Prof. Iris Shai, principal investigator of the DIRECT, said these findings contain a strong message for the public about staying healthy.

“Switching to a healthy lifestyle is a long-term strategy that should be done moderately but persistently. There are no magic shortcuts,” she said. “It is encouraging that adhering to a healthy diet per-se will continue to improve other blood biomarkers, some of which quite strongly associate with improved cardio-metabolic health.”