Slow and steady wins the race! Losing weight too fast can be dangerous

BMI, Body Mass Index

If you’ve watched certain TV shows, then you’ve seen some pretty astronomical weight loss numbers, with many contestants dropping upwards of 10 pounds a week! Or perhaps you’ve witnessed pretty dramatic weight loss in real life -- that aunt who looks unrecognizable at the family reunion after following a rigorous diet, or that co-worker who found his stride at the gym and seems noticeably thinner each week. They might look better, feel better, and think they’re getting healthier. But did you know that if you lose weight too quickly, you may actually be putting your health in jeopardy?

Read on to make sure you understand the health risks of dropping pounds too fast, especially if you’re including weight loss in your New Year’s resolutions this year.

What’s wrong with losing weight quickly?

People who lose more than three pounds per week may have a greater chance of getting gallstones than those who lose weight more slowly. This includes those who go on low-calorie diets or have weight loss surgery.

This is because rapid weight loss may increase cholesterol production in the liver. Cholesterol is one of the substances that make up bile (a fluid that helps with digestion). Excess cholesterol may create an imbalance and cause hard stones  to develop in the gallbladder, which stores bile. Rapid weight loss can also prevent the gallbladder from emptying properly and cause gallstones because the bile gets too concentrated. Typically, eating signals the gallbladder to contract and empty bile into the small intestines to help you digest food. However,  an extreme diet may cause some internal confusion regarding when the gallbladder should be emptied. In short, losing weight very quickly can take quite a toll on the gallbladder.

Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Gallstones can cause further complications, including an increased risk for gallbladder cancer.

Who is most at risk?

The following people are most at risk for gallstones:

  •          Those who lose more than 24 percent of their body weight
  •          Those who lose more than 3.3 pounds a week
  •          Those on very low-fat, low-calorie diets

The risk for gallstones is as high as 12 percent after 8 -16 weeks of restricted-calorie diets. And the risk is more than 30 percent within 12-18 months after gastric bypass surgery. Only about one-third of gallstone cases in these situations have symptoms, which means you may very well experience issues without knowing it.

How can you safely lose weight and reduce your chances of getting gallstones?

Losing weight at a slow pace may make it less likely that you will develop gallstones. Depending on your starting weight, experts recommend losing about a half-pound to two pounds per week.

Experts recommend the following foods:

  •          Eat more foods high in fiber, like brown rice, oats and whole wheat bread
  •          Eat fewer refined grains and sugar
  •          Eat healthy fats, like fish oil and olive oil, to help your gallbladder contract and empty on a regular basis

Regular physical activity is also related to a reduced chance of developing gallstones. To lose weight or prevent weight gain, aim for five hours of moderately intense aerobic activity each week.

Be proactive and find out how to lose weight safely. Schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable doctor who can help you achieve your goals in a healthy manner.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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