Keeping body weight down is known to help manage and prevent diabetes, but a recent study has shown that losing weight soon after diabetes diagnosis greatly helps limit the progression of the disease. This positive effect was seen even if weight was regained later on.
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and therefore a decreased ability to manage blood glucose levels. This problem is exacerbated if the diabetic individual is overweight, which also puts them at increased risk for cardiovascular and blood pressure problems, as well as nerve damage. “Losing weight reduces the risk factors that often lead to heart disease, blindness, nerve and kidney damage, amputations, and death in type 2 diabetes patients,” says study co-author Dr. Gregory Nichols. The current study has shown that after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, blood glucose and blood pressure can be much better managed if weight is lost near the time of diagnosis.
2,574 diabetic adults were followed for four years in the study. Researchers observed that patients were 50% more likely to maintain healthy blood glucose and blood pressure levels if they lost significant weight with 18 months of diagnosis. This is in comparison to patients who either maintained or gained weight in the 18 month time period. 314 patient were labeled as losing significant weight, which averaged to a 23 pound weight loss in each patient. Some of these patients regained their lost weight, but were still more likely to have healthy blood glucose and blood pressure levels.
The conclusions of this study suggest that there is a previously unknown opportunity for managing this disease. “We’ve known for a long time that weight loss is an important component in diabetes treatment and prevention. Now it appears there may be a critical window of opportunity following diagnosis in which some lasting gains can be achieved if people are willing to take immediate steps toward lifestyle changes,” says lead author Dr. Adrianne Feldstein. If this is shown to be true in future research, doctors can begin to put their recently diagnosed diabetes patients on strict dietary regiments immediately to help limit the damage done by the disease. This also reinforces the importance of awareness about diabetes, and getting tested, since a prompt diagnoses near onset better enables control of the disease.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Feldstein, Adrianne. Nichols, Gregory. Levin, Farra. Diabetes Care news release. August 2008.