What does it take to maintain a normal body weight?

July 17, 2006

In the first study of its kind, researchers from The Miriam Hospital and Brown Medical School look to shed some light on this question by comparing the diet and exercise behaviors of individuals who have lost weight and kept it off, to those who have never been overweight.

"We are specifically looking to counter the popular notion that nobody can maintain a normal weight while living in our culture of fast food, automobiles and remote controls - all of which have been labeled "toxic" to maintaining a healthy body weight," says Rena Wing, PhD, director of the Weight Control & Diabetes Center at The Miriam Hospital and Brown Medical School and lead investigator of the national study named Living Lean in a Toxic Environment (LITE).

LITE is a sub-study of the National Weight Control Registry, the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance - co-founded by Dr. Wing. Given the prevailing belief that few individuals succeed at long-term weight loss, the Registry was developed to identify and investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss. The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is currently tracking over 5,000 members.

"We have seen that individuals who were once overweight and maintain a low-calorie diet with moderate fat intake, limit their fast food consumption, and sustain high levels of physical activity, report continued success in weight loss maintenance," says co-investigator Suzanne Phelan, PhD, staff psychologist at The Miriam Hospital and Brown Medical School. "Although these behaviors may vary within each individual - it will be interesting to determine whether normal weight individuals without a history of obesity maintain their body weight in a similar fashion."

Researchers state that people who have not been successful at maintaining their weight loss have not found a pattern of consistency that works in their life. Therefore, any strategies to maintaining a normal weight - be it from successful losers or those who have never been overweight - could prove helpful to many. The Centers for Disease Control states that 7 out of 10 American adults are overweight or obese.

Two groups of participants are being recruited nationwide for the LITE study - those who are normal weight and have never been overweight; and those who are normal weight now, but have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least five years. All participants will wear a small device that measures physical activity, while food consumption information will be collected through telephone interviews with research staff.

For additional information about the LITE study, call 1-877-371-LITE (5483).

The Miriam Hospital, established in 1926 in Providence, RI, is a not-for-profit hospital affiliated with Brown Medical School. Nationally recognized as a top hospital in cardiovascular care, The Miriam Hospital (www.miriamhospital.org) offers particular expertise in cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and women's cardiac care. One of 20 designated Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) sites, The Miriam is a leader in the treatment, research and prevention of HIV/AIDS, attracting $17 million of the world's HIV/AIDS research dollars. The Miriam Hospital has been awarded Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services three times and is committed to excellence in patient care, research and medical education. The Miriam is a founding member of the Lifespan health system.


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