Gender Differences Found When Rapid Weight Loss Occurs on Low-Energy Diet

A low-energy diet for weight loss had different effects between men and women after weight reduction.

Gender differences found when participants underwent a rapid weight loss trial could have significant clinical implications, according to a recent study published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism.

Researchers recruited participants with pre-diabetes and who were also overweight (body mass index ≥25 kg/m2) for an 8-week weight-loss trial and monitored metabolic outcomes. Participants followed a low-energy diet plan consisting of premade sachets that provided 810 kcal per day. Measurements of insulin resistance, fat mass, fat-free mass, metabolic syndrome Z-score, body circumferences, blood pressure, and heart rate were taken at baseline and at 8 weeks.

After the 8 weeks, 83.5% of the participants had experienced weight loss of at least 8% of their starting body weight, with a mean loss of 10.7 kg (P =.001). Women had weight loss, on average, of 10.2 kg, and men had weight loss of 11.8 kg, for a 16% gender difference (P <.001). Similarly, the mean change in metabolic syndrome Z-score was a decrease of -2.5 (P <.001), with women decreasing -2.1±0.2 and men decreasing -3.4±0.2, for a gender difference of -1.3± 0.1 (P <.0001).

Women had more of a decrease in fat-free mass (3.2 kg, SD=0.4) than men (1.9 kg, SD=0.4 [mean gender difference 1.3 kg, SD=0.2; P <.0001]), but men had more of a decrease in fat mass (9.3 kg, SD=0.4) than women (7.1 kg, SD=0.4 [mean gender difference 2.2 kg, SD=0.2; P <.001]).

Overall, insulin resistance, as measured by Homeostasis Model for Assessment, reduced by -1.4 (P <.001), and 35% of the participants had normal glucose levels by the end of the 8 weeks. There were 961 reported adverse events over the 8 weeks, with the most common events being constipation, cold/influenza, muscular weakness, and pain.

Researchers concluded that the low-energy diet weight-loss program benefitted metabolic outcomes in both genders, but gender-specific differences were found. These differences need to be taken into consideration when considering optimal future health.

This study was sponsored by the University of Sydney. Please refer to reference for a complete list of authors’ disclosures.

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Christensen P, Meinert Larsen T, Westerterp-Plantenga M, et al. Men and women respond differently to rapid weight loss: Metabolic outcomes of a multicenter intervention study after a low-energy diet in 2500 overweight, individuals with pre diabetes (PREVIEW) [published online August 7, 2018]. Diabetes Obes Metab. doi: 10.1111/dom.13466