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Weight Loss After Diabetes Diagnosis Offers Big Benefits: Study

And the improvements in blood sugar and blood pressure last, even if weight comes back

TUESDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics who lose weight soon after their diagnosis gain better control of their blood pressure and blood sugar, a benefit that lasts even if they regain 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," said Gregory A. Nichols, co-author of new research published online Aug. 12 in the journal Diabetes Care.

Added Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City: "We haven't had results like this before. This is telling us that with a significant mean weight loss of 10.7 kilograms [23.5 pounds] in 18 months, there's an improvement despite weight regain after 36 months."

More than 20 million Americans now have type 2 diabetes, and the majority 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.

Nichols, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and his team looked at electronic medical records, spanning 1997 to 2002, for 2,574 patients aged 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 don't know what happens after the four-year mark, and they don't 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," Nichols said.

Nichols and his colleagues hope 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," Nichols said.

Said Mezitis: "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."

More information

Visit the American Diabetes Association for more on weight loss and type 2 diabetes.

SOURCES: Gregory A. Nichols, Ph.D., investigator, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Ore.; Spyros Mezitis, M.D., Ph.D., endocrinologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Aug. 12, 2008, Diabetes Care, online

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