Losing weight quickly at the beginning of a diet may be the key to stopping the pounds from coming back, according to new research.
People who lose up to1.5lbs a week are up to five times more likely to keep the weight off than those who manage to shed only half a pound a week, found the study.
Nutrition experts have been divided over whether losing weight quickly or slowly is the best approach to long-term weight control.
The latest research, by a team from the University of Florida, examined whether losing weight at a slow rate initirally resulted in larger long-term weight reduction than losing weight at a fast initial rate.
The authors analysed 262 middle-aged overweight women who had followed a six-month lifestyle programme encouraging them to cut their calorie intake and increase physical activity.
The aim of the programme was to achieve an average weight loss of 1lb a week.
Researchers split the women into three groups according to how much weight they lost in the first month of the trial.
Women in the fast weight-loss group shed almost 1.5lbs per week, those in the moderate weight-loss group lost between half a pound and 1.5lbs a week and those in the slow weight-loss group lost less than half a pound per week.
The authors then looked at the womens’ weight loss after six months and 18 months, as well as any weight regain, and found those who lost weight quickly to begin with fared best.
Women in this group lost more weight overall, maintained their weight loss for longer and were less likely to put weight back on than the more gradual weight losers.
They were five times more likely to achieve the clinically significant figure of 10 per cent weight loss after 18 months than those in the group who lost least weight to begin with.
The study was reported in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine.