Mechanisms of weight regain

Eur J Intern Med. 2021 Nov:93:3-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2021.01.002. Epub 2021 Jan 16.


Weight regain following weight loss is frequent problem that people with obesity face. This weight recidivism is often attributed to the lack of compliance with appropriate food habits and exercise. On the contrary, it is known that body weight and fat mass are regulated by numerous physiological mechanisms, far beyond voluntary food intake and physical exercise. Thus, the aim of this paper is to review the main peripheral and central mechanisms involved in weight regain. Gut hormone secretion profiles impact upon predisposition to weight regain according to an individual variability, although it is recognised a usual pattern of compensatory changes: a reduction in anorectic hormones secretion and an increase in orexigenic hormone. These changes lead to both increased appetite and reward value of food leading to increased energye intake. In addition, resting energy expenditure after weight loss is lower than expected according to body composition changes. This gap between observed and predicted energy expenditure following weight loss is named metabolic adaptation, which has been suggested to explain partly weight regain. This complicated scenario, beyond patient motivation, makes weight regain a challenge in long-term management interventions in patients with obesity.

Keywords: Gut hormones; Metabolic adaptation; Reward; Weight regain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Obesity
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss*