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Where does lost weight go?

Weight is commonly lost by expelling carbon dioxide through breathing. Moderate exercise facilitates such weight loss.

Obesity is a significant threat to public health. The World Health Organization says global obesity rates have nearly tripled since 1975. There are now more than one billion overweight adults across the globe, and at least 300 million people are classified as clinically obese.

Many people want to lose weight and unhealthy fat for personal reasons or at the suggestions of their doctors. Weight loss often involves a combination of increasing exercise and decreasing calorie consumption. As excess weight starts being shed, it becomes evident that a biological process is taking place. Many people refer to it as burning calories. But fat loss is a complicated process that’s spawned various misconceptions.

Breathing to lose weight?

Many people may not know that a lot of the fat lost during weight loss efforts occurs through simple breathing. According to Live Science and a 2014 study from researchers at the University of New South Wales, the body stores excess protein or carbohydrates in a person’s diet in the form of fat, specifically triglycerides, which consist elementally of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. When people lose weight, triglycerides are breaking up into these building block elements through oxidation.

The researchers found that, during oxidation, triglycerides are used up in a process that consumes many molecules of oxygen while producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products. The study found that, during weight loss, 84 percent of the triglyceride fat that is lost turns into carbon dioxide and leaves the body through the lungs. The remaining water may be excreted as sweat, breath or tears, or come out in urine – water excretion is the lesser-known component of the biological process.

Researchers who authored the University of New South Wales study determined that, when 22 pounds of fat are oxidized, 18.5 pounds of it leaves the body as exhaled carbon. The amount of carbon that is lost can be increased through exercise, according to Medical News Today. By substituting one hour of moderate exercise (like jogging) for one hour of rest, a person can increase his or her metabolic rate of triglyceride usage sevenfold.

Carbon excretion also occurs during sleep, while sitting and doing daily activities. However, the amount excreted during these activities is minimal and can be offset by eating too much food. Simply breathing more and faster during regular activities is not recommended, either, as doing so increases the risk for hyperventilation.

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