Is 10 Percent the Magic Number for Weight Loss in Adolescents?

One of the reasons that weight loss can be so difficult is that it sometimes feels as though the mind and body are both working against dropping those extra pounds. That’s because sometimes, they are.

This clinical study of young people between the ages of 14 and 19 found that once someone gets past the tough part – losing 10 percent or more of their body weight – the effort may get easier.

That amount of weight loss helps reduce certain natural compounds in the body that would otherwise trigger us to eat more than we should. One compound in particular, neuropeptide-Y (NPY) was called out as requiring an initial drop in weight in order to be brought down to better, more moderate levels.

Neuropeptide-Y plays a role in a number of brain and body functions, but it is probably best known for stimulating the appetite. The fact that it often works in concert with norepinephrine, which can boost blood pressure, anxiety, and is part of our “fight or flight” response, means that it could have a powerful influence on a desire to eat coupled with the idea that food will resolve stress.

The good news is that this situation is reversible, even though it is still difficult at first. It seems that once a person loses that 10 percent (or more) of body weight, this natural chemistry returns to normal levels, too.


Kravchychyn ACP, Campos RMDS, Oliveira E Silva L, et al. Adipocytokine and appetite-regulating hormone response to weight loss in adolescents with obesity: Impact of weight loss magnitude. Nutrition. 2021 Jul-Aug;87-88:111188.

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the association between the magnitude of weight loss (WL) and serum concentrations of the main adipocytokines and appetite-regulating hormones in adolescents with obesity.

Methods: After completion of informed consent,108 adolescents with obesity (14-19 y of age; post pubertal) were submitted to clinical, nutritional, psychological, physical exercise, and physiotherapy support for 1 y. Body composition (BC) and plasma levels of neuropeptides (neuropeptide Y [NPY], agouti-related peptide [AgRP], and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone [α-MSH]) and leptin were measured at baseline and post-intervention.

Results: After therapy, adolescents who lost <10% body weight and <10% body weight (were compared. Both groups presented improvements in BC and reduced leptin. The Δα-MSH, Δα-MSH/AgRP ratio, and Δα-MSH/NPY ratio were lower and AgRP and NPY variations were higher in the low weight loss group. The leptin concentration was close to normal in the high weight loss only. The ΔWeight, Δα-MSH and Δleptin were associated with body fat loss by multiple linear regressions for all samples.

Conclusion: Weight loss >10% seems to reverse obesity-induced hyperleptinemia while stabilizing the neuropeptides that control appetite in adolescents with obesity. We were able to produce a prognostic mathematical model to predict body fat loss using weight, leptin, and α-MSH variations.