Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics who lose weight soon after their diagnosis gain better control of their blood pressure and blood sugar, says a study in the journal Diabetes Care.
It also is a benefit that lasts even if a person regains that weight.
"If you lose weight after diagnosis, you can achieve some long-term benefits in terms of blood pressure and glycemic control that extend even beyond the point at which you regain weight," says Gregory A. Nichols, Ph.D., co-author of the article.
Dr. Spyros Mezitis, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says he has not seen results like this before.
He says this shows that with a significant average weight loss of 23.5 pounds in 18 months, there is an improvement despite weight regain after 36 months.
More than 20 million Americans now have type 2 diabetes, and many are either overweight or obese.
Studies have shown that weight loss is important to maintain blood sugar and blood pressure control, as well as to keep cholesterol levels in check.
These parameters, in turn, are critical for avoiding the long-term complications of diabetes, such as heart disease, blindness, kidney damage, amputations, and even death.
Dr. Nichols, a researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health in Portland, Oregon, and his team looked at electronic medical records, spanning 1997 to 2002, for 2,574 patients ages 21 through 75 who had been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
The participants were grouped into weight loss categories and followed for four years.
Just over 12 percent of the participants were in the "weight loss" group, with a mean weight loss of more than 25 pounds. Almost all of those pounds were regained by 36 months.
The other groups were labeled as "higher stable weight," "lower stable weight," or "weight gain."
Patients who lost weight were more likely to reach blood pressure and blood sugar targets during the fourth year, although, by then, they had regained the weight.
The researchers acknowledged, however, that they do not know what happens after the four-year mark, and they do not know why the benefit was sustained.
"It's entirely possible that one of the explanations here is that if we looked at 15 years, we wouldn't find that benefit continuing," says Dr. Nichols.
Dr. Nichols hopes to explore a number of other questions, including whether there was a difference in benefit between people who regained weight and those who kept it off.
Whatever the final answers, "losing weight is a good idea, even if you regain it," notes Dr. Nichols.
Dr. Mezitis says, "We do ask that those diabetics who are overweight lose weight, and that, in general, improves all the factors that affect vascular disease, and that's blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol."
Always consult your physician for more information.
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There is a variety of methods used to treat obesity. Incorporating multiple methods, such as making diet changes as well as adding exercise, may be beneficial.
Although diet plans high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates are gaining in popularity, some of them may pose serious health risks in the long run because of the emphasis on saturated fat.
Successful weight loss that is maintained over a long period of time depends more on limiting energy consumed (calories) and increasing energy expenditure (exercise and daily activity) than the composition of the diet.
Fasting may result in rapid weight loss, but lean muscle mass is lost as well as fat. All-liquid diets must be medically supervised and may be used for a short period of time in people who are obese, but these diets are not the long-term answer to weight loss.
Fads, fasting, and popular diets in which health effects have not been determined by rigorous clinical trials may not be healthy options for weight loss.
To lose weight and keep it off for a lifetime, begin thinking about an individualized eating plan instead of a “diet.” A plan tailored to personal likes and dislikes will have a better chance of producing sustainable weight loss.
A balanced diet that is restricted in calories - 1,200 to 1,400 calories for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories for men - may work well. A registered dietician can help to make an individualized diet plan based on a person’s particular situation.
Include a variety of foods in the diet.
All fats are not bad. It is now known that polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats provide health benefits such as helping to keep the heart healthy. This means that nuts, seeds, and some types of oils, such as olive, safflower, and canola, have a place in a healthy eating plan.
Choose whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread rather than white rice and white bread. Whole grain foods are rich in nutrients compared to more processed products.
They are higher in fiber and therefore absorbed by the body more slowly and do not cause a rapid spike in insulin, which can trigger hunger and cravings.
Choose at least five servings daily of fruits and vegetables. Be sure to choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, as different fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts and types of nutrients.
When dining out or ordering take-out food, ask for a take-home box or avoid super-size selections when you order.
Read food labels carefully, paying particular attention to the number of servings contained in the product and the serving size. If the label says a serving is 150 calories but the servings per container is three and the contents of the entire container are consumed, the calories consumed is triple, or 450 calories.
Always consult your physician for more information.