ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Some individuals who are overweight don’t need to lose weight to avoid having a heart attack or developing diabetes.
That’s the basis for groundbreaking new research at Washington University School of Medicine.
“Some people who are overweight are actually quite healthy and don't need to lose weight to improve their metabolic health,” said Dr. Samuel Klein, who is leading the study at Wash U.
Dr. Klein explained the group they are studying is unique, given the fact they can be quite overweight and never develop certain health issues like diabetes or a heart attack.
“These are an unusual subset of people that we’re studying with the metabolically healthy obese group to try and understand why are they protected from these metabolic problems,” Klein said.
Researchers are studying the differences between those who are overweight and metabolically healthy, and those who are overweight and metabolically unhealthy.
Linda Decosta is a participant of the study. She had been working with her doctor for over 10 years to lose weight.
Even taking prescription diet pills and considering gastric bypass, but to no avail.
“The issue was, there was no consistency to the weight loss,” Decosta said, “I would lose 10 pounds, and then it would just plateau and I wouldn't lose anything else.”
That’s when she was asked to participate in the weight loss study at Washington University.
“I said well what the heck, I’ve done everything that I know about. Nothing’s helped, just get into it and see if I even qualify for it.”
Doctors placed Decosta on a ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbs and high in good fats.
She lost over 40 pounds since March, with no exercise.
“I wish I would have known about this sooner,” Decosta said.
Despite Decosta’s overwhelming success as part of the study, what Dr. Klein and his team of researchers are studying has less to with the weight loss itself.
Dr. Klein said the goal is to learn more about why -- for all the hard work it takes -- weight loss is so beneficial.
“When this study is done we can tell certain people that they’re already metabolically healthy and they don’t need to lose weight to be metabolically healthy. But they still might need to lose weight to reduce their risk for cancer, joint problems, lung problems,” Dr. Klein said.
The research may also reveal new therapies to help those who need to lose weight.
For instance, the type of diet that is most effective for health and weight loss. In addition to the keto diet, researchers are also monitoring the results in volunteers who have been placed on Mediterranean and low fat diets.
“The overall goal is to improve people’s health, improve their quality of life and really reduce their risk for future diseases as well.” Dr. Klein said.
So far, that's what Decosta has accomplished.
She said her next goal is to lose another 20 to 30 pounds.
“I’m not looking for a model figure or anything like that. I just want to be healthy enough to be around to watch my kids get married, have grandbabies, and be able to actually chase my grandbabies if I want.”
The Washington University School of Medicine is still recruiting research volunteers. They are looking for people of all different weight ranges and health backgrounds.