Metabolic Changes Could Be Key for 'Biggest Loser' Contestants

Medscape Staff

December 16, 2021

A study provides a new angle on the weight regain that many contestants experienced years after taking part in the reality show.

What to know:

  • A recent study in Obesity evaluating the long-term health effects of contestants on the NBC reality show "The Biggest Loser" suggests that a clue to why many contestants gained weight back may be found in total energy expenditure theory.

  • Total energy expenditure theory was developed from a 2012 study of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, who were found to burn around the same number of calories each day as more sedentary people, even though the Tanzanians move far more. It was postulated that the calories the hunter-gatherers were burning were kept in check by a lowered metabolic rate.

  • Kevin Hall, PhD, suspected that the metabolisms of "The Biggest Loser" contestants may be behaving in a similar way. He found that the resting metabolic rates of the contestants fell dramatically during the filming of the show, as an effort from their bodies to avoid starvation when faced with a drastic calorie reduction and increase in exercise.

  • However, years later, many contestants' metabolic rates did not return to normal — especially among those who continued to exercise, which according to the theory could encourage their metabolic rates to stay low.

  • Even still, those who exercised consistently kept off more weight than those who did not, suggesting a complex relationship that requires more study. While the total energy expenditure theory is still just a hypothesis, according to Hall, the study results may provide new evidence of this model.

This is a summary of the article "How Exercise Affects Metabolism and Weight Loss" published by The New York Times on December 15. The full article can be found on nytimes.com.

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