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Diabetes Health Center

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Successful Dieting Diabetics Do Well

WebMD Health News

Nov. 9, 2000 -- People with type 2 diabetes who set out to -- and actually do -- shed unwanted pounds may add years to their lives.

In a new 12-year study of almost 5,000 overweight people with type 2 -- or adult-onset -- diabetes, those who went on diets and lost weight were 25% less likely to die of any cause during the study period than their nondieting counterparts. That's according to the study in the October issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

About two-thirds of the nearly 15 million people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to the American Diabetes Association. This form of the disease occurs when a person does not produce enough of the hormone insulin or when their body does not use it properly. The body uses insulin to help sugar in the blood enter into cells where it's used as fuel for the body.

Weight loss is considered the cornerstone of treatment in people with type 2 diabetes because it allows the body to better use insulin and thus lowers blood sugar. Elevated levels of blood sugar are responsible for many of the devastating side effects of diabetes, such as blindness, kidney disease, limb amputation, heart attack, and stroke.

The new study only looked at intentional weight loss since unplanned weight loss is often a symptom of a more severe disease or a sign of deteriorating health.

While more studies are needed to confirm the new findings, lead researcher David F. Williamson, PhD, of the division of diabetes translation at the CDC, concludes that intentional weight loss results in "substantial" decreases in death and disease among this group.

Study participants who shed weight lost more than 20 pounds. But there were no quick fixes, since many of them took more than a year to drop the weight.

Gerald Bernstein, MD, past president of the American Diabetic Association, says that obesity, physical inactivity, and advancing age can all aggravate type 2 diabetes. The new findings make sense, says Bernstein, who also has a private practice in New York.

When someone loses weight, insulin produced by the body is allowed to do what it's supposed to do, and the more physically active a person is, the better the insulin works, says Bernstein, who also is an associate professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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