Sustained weight loss reduces risk of diabetes in overweight women

by Barbara Hewitt on December 30, 2013

Overweight and obese middle age women can reduce their risk of developing diabetes and heart disease through a modest loss of weight over two years, scientists have discovered.

A study of 417 women in the United States taking part in weight loss programmes for up to 24 months found that those who lost 10% or more of their body weight improved their total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, glucose and inflammation markers.

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Factors that may affect creeping weight gain in middle aged women include sedentary jobs, repeated pregnancy and the transition to menopause

Women who had the highest levels of risk at the start of the study benefitted the most from modest weight loss, according to the research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

‘It is challenging to lose weight, but if women commit to losing 10% of their body weight and sustain that over time, it can have a large impact on overall risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes,’ said Cynthia Thomson, co-author and Professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and Director of the University of Arizona Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion in Tucson.

The women, an average 44 years old and weighing nearly 200 pounds at the start of the study, were recruited within the communities of the University of California, San Diego, the University of Minnesota, the University of Arizona and the Kaiser Permanente Center Northwest in Portland, Oregon.

Factors that may affect creeping weight gain in middle aged women include sedentary jobs, repeated pregnancy and the transition to menopause. In the end, a large percent of middle aged American women find themselves weighing much more in their forties than they weighed in their teens, according to Thomson.

Women in short term weight loss programmes usually do better with weight loss in the first six months and then they start to rebound, the researchers pointed out.

The women taking part either attended weight loss programmes at health centres or were given telephone based counselling by dieticians. Those attending centres had a weekly weigh in and counselling and also had access to internet resource materials. The others received weekly counselling sessions via telephone.

Pre-packaged weight loss meals were provided at the start of the programme as part of a prescribed eating plan and after a year they moved to fewer pre-packaged meals and were encouraged to select healthy meals. They were encouraged to eat less fat and more fruit and vegetables and encouraged to work up to 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.

‘Our study revealed the need for healthcare providers to provide women with longer term support for weight control. It seems to pay off in terms of modifying risk factors for obesity related disease,’ Thomson explained.

‘The good news is that when you lose weight long term, you just don’t move to a smaller dress size, you are actually moving these risk factors markedly and likely reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes,’ she added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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