Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Diet Drug May Help Prevent Diabetes

By Dianne Partie Lange
WebMD Health News

May 10, 2000 -- Not only can the diet drug Xenical help overweight people drop weight and keep it off, the weight loss can leave them less likely to develop diabetes -- even if they shed only a few pounds, an international team of researchers has found.

Researcher Steven B. Heymsfield, MD, tells WebMD that the study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, will help sweep away the misconception that overweight people need to lose a great deal of weight to gain health benefits.

Participants in the research started out at an average of 220 pounds, Heymsfield, of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York, tells WebMD. "At best, they lost about 10% of their body weight, which puts them at about [200 pounds]. By any measure that is [still] overweight," he says. Yet the study showed that their ability to handle glucose was significantly improved.

Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which results from the body's inability to respond to insulin and leads to a higher than normal level of sugar, or glucose, in the bloodstream.

To test their theory that losing a small amount of weight would improve glucose regulation, Heymsfield and colleagues from the U.S., Finland, England, and Sweden looked at the results of three clinical trials of Xenical involving 675 obese men and women. The drug, which is approved by the FDA for treating obesity, works by blocking the enzyme that breaks down fat, meaning less dietary fat is absorbed by the body.

The men and women who took Xenical three times a day and followed a moderately low-calorie diet lost an average of almost 15 pounds. Others, who took a placebo and followed the same diet, lost an average of about eight pounds. At the end of the second year, the Xenical group had maintained a weight loss that was about six pounds greater than the placebo group.

At the beginning of the study, the men and women had a blood test to detect how well their bodies used glucose. The test was repeated at the end of the study.

The researchers found that the dieters who had impaired glucose tolerance before taking Xenical progressed to type 2 diabetes more slowly than those who took the placebo. They also found that modest weight loss brought about improved blood glucose levels in those who didn't yet have diabetes, but who had impaired glucose tolerance when the study began.

"They have proven ... what we have suspected -- that weight loss can prevent or treat diabetes," says Ian Yip, MD, who reviewed the study for WebMD. "Ninety percent of type 2 diabetics have what obesity experts call 'diabesity.'" Yip is associate chief of the division of clinical nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 
Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article