Weight Loss Doesn't Lower Heart Risks For Diabetics, Shows Study


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A long-term study of weight loss among Type 2 diabetics has just concluded, yielding interesting results that have been published in the most recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The 11-year trial looked at more than 5,000 patients with Type 2 diabetes. The study was done by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh as part of the U.S. Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) Researcher Group.

Starting in 2001, patients were put onto two groups. One group received the study's Intensive Lifestyle Intervention, which provided patients with a program for weight management and increased physical activity. The other group was given Diabetes Support and Education, which is only general health information for diabetics. The patients were between the ages of 45 and 75, had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and had a body-mass index of 25 or greater (the CDC's definition of an overweight adult).

After 11 years, the two groups were found to have no significant differences when it came to heart attack and stroke risks.

"While the findings from the Look AHEAD study did not support that engagement in a weight-loss intervention was effective for reducing the onset of cardiovascular disease incidence or mortality, this does not mean that overweight adults with diabetes should not lose weight and become more physically active," said John Jakicic, chair of the University of Pittsburgh's Weight Management Research Center. "Rather, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence from this study to date that has shown that weight loss and physical activity were associated with numerous other health benefits.

"These include improving physical function and quality of life, reduction in risk factors such as lipids and blood pressure with less reliance on medication, better diabetes control with less reliance on medication, improved sleep, psychological and emotional health benefits, and many others. Thus, adults with diabetes can begin to realize many of these health benefits with even modest reductions in body weight and modest increases in physical activity."

The study's authors have speculated that a greater amount of weight loss than that seen in the study may be necessary for diabetics to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. It was also suggested that both groups' cardiovascular health may have improved at a comparable rate due to the study providing all patients with annual feed back on their health.

The study did find that its Intensive Lifestyle Intervention was effective at encouraging weight loss in patients. Those in the intervention group lost an average of 8.7% of their starting body weight after one year, and maintained an average of 6% off their starting weight loss at the end of the trial. The education group only averaged 0.7% of their body weight lost after one year, and only maintained an average of 3.5% off their starting body weight at the end of the study.