I am not advocating that we should be complacent about obesity. Its just that continued focus on weight loss seems counterproductive and may be quite hazardous to the health of those who continually battle their weight. Each year millions of people attempt to lose weight, shelling out crores of rupees in the process. But despite our perennial efforts to shed kgs, our waistlines are getting bigger, not smaller. It seems what ever we lose, we gain back-and then some. Not only can this be damaging to our self-esteem and mental health, chronic fluctuations in body weight may also do physical harm.

In fact, most of the epidemiological studies on weight loss alone show that weight loss increases risk for premature death, primarily from heart disease. This obviously represents a paradox, because weight loss is thought to improve cardiovascular disease risk factors. But this is not always the case.

One of the most popular weight reducing strategies of the past 35 years, the low-carbohydrate diet, actually raises cholesterol levels (especially low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and reduces high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the heart-healthy kind) despite weight loss. This suggests that going on a low-carbohydrate diet may actually increase risk of atherosclerosis.

Another possible explanation for the paradoxical finding of weight loss being associated with increased risk of dying from heart disease is the recent evidence which shows that dieting depletes body reserves of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, thus raising the possibility that weight loss via caloric restriction may actually make the body more vulnerable to atherosclerosis. The researchers who reported these findings warned that “a subtle but chronic risk state could be established if recurrent dieting depletes omega-3 reserves and intake during maintenance does not allow effective repletion.”

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