Effort pays off when diabetics embark on weight loss program

April 9, 2004 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

Effort pays off when diabetics embark on weight loss program

Overweight adults with diabetes who try to lose weight - even unsuccessfully - may live longer than those who don't give it a go, new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests.

Investigators found that among the 1,400 diabetics they studied, those who said they had tried to lose weight in the past year were less likely to die over the next nine years. And it didn't matter whether they actually shed any pounds.

The reason may have to do with the overall healthier lifestyles that weight watchers tend to adopt. People trying to lose weight may take up exercise or eat more nutritious foods, which could make for a longer life even in the absence of weight loss. People who attempt to lose weight may also tend to follow more health recommendations in general, from not smoking to wearing seatbelts when driving.

However, the findings do not necessarily negate the importance of weight loss for people with diabetes. Instead, they highlight a still "unresolved" question: whether the emphasis should be on shedding excess pounds, or on taking up healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and improving nutrition - even if this doesn't result in weight loss.

The study included 1,401 overweight, diabetic men and women age 35 and older who were interviewed about their health and lifestyle in 1989. Those who said they had tried to lose weight during the past year were 23% less likely to die over the next nine years than those who reported no weight loss effort.

Exactly why those who actually dropped pounds did not have the lowest death risk of all study participants is unclear. It may be because they failed to keep the weight off for the long haul. The researchers asked study participants about weight loss at only one time point, but did not look at long-term success.

The researchers said that probably the best advice for overweight diabetics would be to aim for gradual weight loss by "using healthy lifestyle changes in moderation" - including exercise, cutting calories, and getting more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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