NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Want to lose weight and keep it off? The best way to do it is to drop the pounds quickly, not slowly, according to new research.
Scientists at the University of Florida, who studied the link between the rate of initial weight loss and overall success long-term, said shedding weight quickly is the best way to achieve lasting results.
"Women who lost at a faster rate, greater than 1.5 pounds a week, had lost more and maintained a greater loss in the long run than women who lost at a slower rate of half a pound a week or less," said researcher Lisa Nackers, whose findings are published online by the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
The women who lost weight faster also kept better food records and ate fewer calories than the other women.
"It shows if you get off to a quick start ... it pays off more in the long run than making smaller behavioral changes," Nackers added in an interview.
About two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese. Research results have been mixed on whether dropping pounds at a slow or quicker pace is best for overall weight loss in the long term.
Nackers said the jury is still out on which is the best method but her findings support the quick approach.
"What we concluded in this study is that the results show that perhaps losing at a faster rate is more reinforcing in terms of the learning period of behavior," she added.
Nackers suggests that physical appearance, body image, increased energy and better mobility may be improved more by shedding weight quickly which can be encouraging to meet goals.
She and her team studied data on 262 middle-aged women who took part in an obesity treatment trial. All the women were encouraged to cut calories and do more exercise.
They split the women into three groups, fast, moderate and slow, according to how much weight they lost in the first month. They also studied how much weight the women had dropped at six and 18 months.
Nackers reported that women in the fast group were five times more likely to achieve a 10 percent loss of their body weight at 18 months than those in the slow group. Women in the moderate group were nearly three times more likely to reach that milestone than the slow group.
Editing by Steve Addison