The Biggest Loser Metabolism Research

by David on October 15, 2013

The Microlife MedGem indirect calorimetry device is being used to assess metabolic changes in The Biggest Loser™ contestants.

“We chose to use the MedGem device based on its accuracy in comparison to other indirect calorimeters.” said Dr. Robert Huizenga, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at UCLA and Medical Advisor to The Biggest Loser.

Last year, Eric Ravussin, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, helped study contestants from “The Biggest Loser” who had lost an average of 120 pounds.

Even with vigorous exercise, which should maintain muscle mass and rev up metabolism, their metabolic rates had slowed.

Ravussin said they needed to take in about 500 fewer calories a day to maintain their weights than someone of the same weight who had not dieted.

The grueling boot-camp workouts on NBC’s The Biggest Loser help contestants lose large amounts of body fat while preserving their muscle mass, a new study shows.

Participants on the show do intense aerobic and strength-training exercises for four to six hours a day and follow a low-calorie diet as viewers watch the pounds melt away.

But how does all this affect the dieters’ body composition and metabolism?

To find out, researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge went to the set of the show during Season 8 in 2009, when Oklahoma native Danny Cahill won after losing 239 pounds.

The scientists measured the weight, body composition and resting metabolic rate of the 16 participants at the start of the show, at Week 6 and at Week 30, the finale.

The findings, presented this week at the meeting of the Obesity Society in San Diego:

Overall, the contestants dropped from an average 49% body fat to 27%.

After 30 weeks, participants lost an average of 128 pounds; 81% was body fat and 19% was fat-free mass, mostly muscle.

This huge loss of body fat and minimal loss of muscle “is quite remarkable,” says lead author Darcy Johannsen, Assistant Professor of skeletal muscle physiology at Pennington.

This means the vigorous exercise helped the contestants preserve their muscle mass, which is the most metabolically active tissue of the body.”

Dieters don’t want to lose muscle mass because it is responsible for resting metabolic rate, regulation of core body temperature and maintenance of optimal function and quality of life as the body ages, she says. You need strong muscles and bones to stay active.

To find out more about the indirect calorimeter that Dr. Robert Huizenga uses on The Biggest Loser, click on Microlife MedGem indirect calorimetry device.

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