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Mild Weight Loss Cuts Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes Patients May Benefit Even From Modest Weight Loss
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 29, 2007 -- Weight loss doesn't have to be dramatic to help the health of people with type 2 diabetes, a new study shows.

The study, called Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes), included 5,145 people with type 2 diabetes.

The key finding: Losing a modest amount of weight -- about 8% -- reaped big health rewards, including better blood sugar control and less need for diabetes and blood pressure drugs.

"We're encouraged, based on our experience with Look AHEAD, that many overweight individuals with type 2 diabetes are able to achieve and maintain 7% to 10% or greater weight loss over the course of one year," researcher Mark Espeland, PhD, tells WebMD.

Espeland works in the public health sciences division of Wake Forest University's medical school.

Weight Loss and Type 2 Diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't respond properly to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Being overweight or obese makes people more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Look AHEAD participants first weighed in, got checkups, and took exercise tests. Then they were randomly split into two similar groups.

Participants in one group got an intensive lifestyle makeover to help them lose at least 7% of their body weight in the study's first year. They attended dozens of group meetings, ate portion-controlled diets, and got help from behavioral psychologists and exercise specialists.

Their portion-controlled diets included liquid meal replacements or structured meal plans. Those participants were encouraged to walk or get other physical activity at home.

For comparison, participants in the other group got standard care, education, and support for their type 2 diabetes, with few group meetings and no specific diet or exercise plan.

Weight Loss Diabetes Results

In a year, participants in the intensive lifestyle program lost 8.6% of their body weight, boosted their aerobic fitness by 21%, improved their blood sugar control, and cut back on their need for diabetes and blood pressure medications.

Those in the comparison group lost less than 1% of their body weight. But they did upgrade their fitness somewhat, though not as much as those in the lifestyle program.

"Many markers of health improved in both groups," Espeland tells WebMD.

Look AHEAD will continue to see if the short-term results hold up over time. "This is the primary reason for Look AHEAD," says Espeland.

Many Ways to Lose Weight

In the journal, the researchers note that the Slim-Fast Foods Company and other firms -- as well as many government and educational grants -- support Look AHEAD.

But liquid meal replacements weren't necessarily essential to the results.

"While we felt that liquid meal replacements were helpful for many individuals to achieve and maintain weight loss, we viewed them as one of several strategies that could be jointly used," Espeland tells WebMD.

"Our protocol was designed to enable individuals to meet study goals for weight loss using a toolbox of approaches that were tailored to individual’s success. We cannot attribute our overall success to any single approach," says Espeland.

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