Yes—but only as much as about a third of people who live with obesity lose weight at a healthy weight. It was this statistic of the loss of weight along with exercise that was used in the study, but the research was flawed.
The study used statistics derived from the National Health Interview Survey, a representative survey of American adults, conducted between 2002 and 2006. The study surveyed people (over 16,000 people, including 12,000 people who did not currently live in Hawaii) across the country who were either overweight (body mass index over 25) or obese (body mass index over 40).
Using data from the NHIS, the researchers created statistics for the weight of overweight and obese individuals, as well as those who had a healthy weight but had been given a diagnostic weight loss diagnosis. These statistics include weight loss, weight gain, and how many people in each group had lost weight.
From this, the researchers derived a statistical model that predicts how many fewer total pounds of people will lose weight in the future, over the period of six years. The model is called a Regression Equation Model.
The authors found that in Hawaii, the population at a healthy weight lost more weight over the past six years than the population who were overweight but also believed they were obese. The overweight population dropped from 2.0 pounds per person in 2002 to 2.8 pounds per person in 2006 while the obese population rose from 4.2 pounds per person in 2002 to 4.7 pounds per person in 2006. The researchers report, “The model indicates that overweight and obese individuals will lose weight over a period of several years, but only if they reduce their weight to a healthy body weight for most of that period.” So, if an overweight or obese person believes they are healthy weight, they will lose weight over time. If they are obese or overweight, they will have the same chance.
However, the authors also show that the “excess weight associated with being underweight is a major health risk.” So an overweight person who weighs 155 pounds could conceivably have an excess weight of 441 pounds, which could lead to serious health problems, and therefore, a lot less weight loss—if they are obese. On the other hand, if the person is underweight, his or her risk of death due to obesity drops dramatically.
It is important to note that this study could not prove that underweight or overweight people do not have any risk for serious illness or death. In this age where we