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People who are obese have a harder time burning calories

Staying fit is hard, and when you begin the long journey to weight loss it can be an uphill battle. New research confirms that shedding pounds is more than a matter of mindset – if you’re already obese, it can be even harder for you to burn calories than people who are already in shape. 

“This analysis using data from the DLW database shows how individuals are not all the same in the way they budget their energy use. People living with obesity may be particularly efficient at hanging onto their fat stores, making weight loss difficult,” explained Professor John Speakman of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

The research, published by a group of international scholars from China and the United Kingdom, looked at data from 1,750 adults. Individuals with a more normal body mass index (BMI) ended up burning more calories at the end of the day after vigorous activity – 72 percent of those calories burned during exercise stayed gone. Those with a higher BMI only ended up losing about half of the calories they burned during exercise. 

The researchers believe compensatory mechanisms to be the cause. The body is constantly seeking a state of equilibrium, a balance that both environment and history influence. So, if you eat a lot and then exercise, your body is going to increase your appetite, or possibly reduce the calories you burn while resting to maintain your “normal” state. 

Professor Speakman says that this discrepancy explains why despite significant effort, it can be hard for more obese individuals to lose weight. “When enrolled into exercise programs for weight loss, most people lose a little weight. Some individuals lose lots, but a few unlucky individuals actually gain weight.” 

Professor Lewis Halsey from the University of Roehampton says that medical professionals and weight loss programs need to take heed of the difference between individuals’ metabolisms.  

“Around the world, national guidelines tend to recommend a 500–600 calorie deficit through exercising and dieting to lose weight. However, they do not take into account the reduction of calories being burned in the most basic of human functions as the body compensates for the calories burned on the exercise,” explained Professor Halsey.

While the study might sound discouraging to those pursuing a healthier lifestyle, understanding the nuances of one’s own body can only be a good thing. Paying close attention to your own physiological cues can be an added tool for weight loss. 

The study is published in the journal Current Biology

By Alex Ruger, Staff Writer

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