The study of regain after weight loss is a relatively new area, said Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science at Tufts University, Boston, who is familiar with the study.
"There was a wide range of variability in both weight loss and regain among the postmenopausal women studied," she said. The shift in body composition toward more fat than muscle didn't occur in all women, she said.
Even so, she said the clear message is to try to avoid becoming overweight to begin with, and to keep off the excess weight once you lose it.
"For those women who have gained excess body weight and are then successful in losing it, this finding may add a bit more impetus to maintain the weight loss," Lichtenstein said.
But the study shouldn't deter overweight individuals from trying to slim down, she said.
Protein consumption is important to help minimize the amount of muscle loss, Nicklas said.
U.S. dietary guidelines recommend 0.8 grams of protein (or more) for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. For instance, a woman who weighs 200 pounds should take in about 70 to 90 grams of protein, Nicklas said. A 5.3-ounce container of Greek yogurt has about 13 grams or more of protein, she noted.
Exercise and a balanced diet can help maintain weight loss, Nicklas advised.
For more on body mass index, see the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Barbara J. Nicklas, Ph.D., gerontologist, J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc., Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science, Tufts University, Boston; Dec. 13, 2011, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
All rights reserved