A "landmark" new study out of the National Institutes of Health helps explain why weight gain after weight loss is so common—and so difficult to avoid.
Reporting in the journal Obesity, researchers say that weight loss puts the body in a sort of fight mode and results in a "strong increase in appetite," prompting people to eat an extra 100 calories for every two pounds lost.
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"That’s the very first time that number has been quantified. We never knew how big that number was before the study," says the lead author. "We get patients all the time that hit these plateaus, and we’re trying to figure out, what do we do?" adds a researcher at the Scripps Clinic.
"It’s real clear to us that you really need to deal with the food intake side, the driven appetite, from this paper." Previous research has established that weight loss leads to a drop in metabolism that often leads to weight gain, reports WebMD.
These new findings suggest that the gain in appetite has an effect that is three times stronger than the drop in metabolism, and that taken together it's very hard to keep the scale from tipping back toward its starting point.
That's the bad news. The good news is that drugs already exist to suppress appetite, and these findings may establish cause to add a prescription to the post-weight loss period, one researcher says.
"This helps to explain that it’s not all your fault," another says. "Your body fights against the long-term maintenance of that weight." (One Oprah fan says that if Oprah cannot buy permanent weight loss, maybe it can't be bought.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Those Who Lose Weight Gain a Stronger Appetite