Contradicting The Set-Point Theory

Weinsier and al. purport to have contradicted the set-point theory of weight control. The findings of their study are that resting metabolic rate and thyroid levels are proportional to fat free body mass (FFM) and energy intake. Obese individuals who have lost weight are not different in this regard from individuals who were never overweight.

In other words they contend that people who have lost weight are not metabolically different if energy intake and FFM are taken into account, so changes in metabolism do not explain their tendency to regain the weight. If they eat the same amount, weight reduced people do not differ metabolically from people who have not lost weight.

At first blush, that seems to contradict the set-point theory. I don't think it does.

In the first place the practical result is the same. Unless formerly obese people continue to eat less calories than their not-weight-reduced friends, they gain weight. Few of the study subjects in the Weinsier report maintained weight loss. Once they ate "normally" they gained back the weight. Even though their metabolisms woke up quickly, that did not prevent weight regain.

Secondly the set-point theory does not specify necessarily the metabolic mechanism that Weinsier contends. The set-point mechanism could equally be thought of as reduced energy expenditure in response to calorie reduction and a reduction in FFM in the midst of a large FM. There is also the non-resting metabolism that studies have shown to be even more reduced by weight reduction. That issue is not addressed by this study.

Finally, when first formulated by Elliott, the set-point was thought of as a brain mechanism of hunger and appetite. That conception of the set-point defense against weight change remains amply documented.