Medical Technology

Metabolic changes could be crucial for contestants on ‘Biggest Loser’.

A new study offers a fresh perspective on the weight loss many contestants have experienced over the years since taking part in the reality television show.

What you need to know:

  • A recent study in Obesity looking at the long-term health effects of contestants on the NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser” suggests that a clue to why many contestants lost weight may be found in the theory of total energy expenditure.

  • The theory of total energy expenditure was developed following a 2012 study of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania who were found to burn about the same number of calories a day as more sedentary people, even though the Tanzanians are more active. It was postulated that the calories the hunter-gatherers burned were kept in check through a slower metabolic rate.

  • Kevin Hall, PhD, suspected that the metabolisms of “The Biggest Loser” contestants might be acting similarly. He discovered that contestants’ resting metabolic rates dropped significantly during filming. This was the result of their bodies trying to prevent starvation after having to endure extreme calorie reduction and more exercise.

  • But, years later many contestants’ metabolic rates did not return to normal levels, particularly among those who exercised, which according to the theory could encourage their metabolic rates to remain low.

  • However, people who exercised regularly lost weight than those who didn’t. This suggests that there is a complex relationship that requires more study. Hall states that the total energy expenditure theory is still an idea and that the study results could provide new evidence.

This is a brief summary of the article “How exercise affects metabolism and weight loss” published by The New York Times December 15. The full article is available on

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