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4 Lesser Known Benefits of Weight Loss

Weight loss isn’t just about looking slimmer.

It can impact your well-being in surprising ways. 

Recent studies have shown a trimmer waistline can actually be a total body (and lifestyle) experience. Other benefits of weight loss include improved memory, a reduced risk of certain cancers, lower health care costs and improved fertility. And those are just to name a few. It certainly isn’t a cure all, but it comes close.

Young African-American couple cooking for weight loss

Some of the ways weight loss can positively impact your life:

Lose weight, gain memory.

Participants in a study published in a 2016 issue of Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases were given two mental skills tests 12 weeks apart. Half of this group underwent weight loss surgery between these exams, and after an average of 50 pounds of weight loss, performance on their cognitive tests improved. The control group did not make any lifestyle changes and their memory actually deteriorated during this time period. It is believed that at least a portion of this positive cognitive effect has to do with the lifestyle choices that we make when we focus on losing weight. The more active we are, the better we sleep. Our sleep and our weight have deep influences on our cardiovascular system, which impacts our memory as well as our daytime functioning.

One answer for cancer?

Obesity is known to increase the risk for at least eight types of cancer, including breast, pancreas and colon. According to the National Cancer Institute, it was estimated that in 2007 about 34,000 new cases of cancer in men and 50,500 in women were due to obesity. While the exact effect of weight loss on cancer is hard to study long-term, weight loss has been proven to reduce chronic diseases, which are considered risk factors for cancer. An association has also been found between weight loss and the decline in obesity-related cancer in patients who underwent bariatric surgery.

Fatten your wallet.

Your long-term health doesn’t have to be the only beneficiary of weight loss, your finances can profit too. Obesity is costly. According to the American Heart Association obesity and its associated diseases are contributing to rising healthcare costs. Studies have shown that obesity is costing America billions of dollars per year, much of this from the patient’s pocket. 

Conceive of this.

Evidence is mounting that getting fit can increase your fertility, and your odds of fertility treatment success. Obesity can cause a hormonal imbalance, triggering problems with ovulation. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, ovulation isn’t the only concern for overweight or obese women trying to get pregnant. Weight-related health concerns like diabetes, insulin resistance and thyroid concerns all play a part in healthy conception. Men aren’t off the hook either. Low sperm counts, erectile dysfunction and low sperm motility are more common in obese men, as are issues with testosterone and reproductive hormones.

Initial Benefits of Weight Loss

It can sound insurmountable, but as many of my patients can attest, there is good news. Even a modest amount of weight loss can bring immense changes to your health. According to a 2011 study at the Washington University School of Medicine, participants who lost an average of 10 percent of their body weight experienced long-term heart and vascular health improvements, including reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even when these participants went off their diets and gained back a few pounds, the initial weight loss benefits lasted long-term. This study is one of many that emphasize small steps in weight loss, with even a few setbacks, can amount to huge health strides.

It is also never too late for weight management. Whether you are 22 or 72, weight loss is good for you and is attainable. If you are concerned about your weight, speak with your primary care provider about the support that is available to you.

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A board-certified obesity and internal medicine physician, Dr. Sommer Knittig earned her medical degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia School of Medicine in Columbia, Mo. and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C. She has experience in Internal and Obesity Medicine, practicing at US Naval hospitals in Naples, Italy and Okinawa, Japan. Dr. Knittig is proficient in Italian and Arabic. In her non-surgical weight loss practice, Dr. Knittig works with patients who have complex comorbidities and severe obesity.

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