People undergoing weight management and increased physical activity have no difference in heart attacks and strokes, a new study has suggested.
The landmark study investigating the long-term effects of weight loss on the risks of cardiovascular disease among patients with Type 2 diabetes, which was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and at clinical facilities throughout the United States, the multicenter clinical trial investigated the effects of an intensive lifestyle intervention program, intended to achieve and maintain weight loss in overweight or obese people with Type 2 diabetes, on rates of cardiovascular disease.
Begun in 2001, the trial enrolled more than 5,000 people at 16 clinical centers across the US.
The study found that weight loss among members of the study’s Intensive Lifestyle Intervention group, provided with a program of weight management and increased physical activity, resulted in no difference in heart attacks and strokes when compared with the study’s control group, the Diabetes Support and Education group, which was provided with only general health information and social support.
The effect of the intervention program on weight loss, however, was significant: Participants in the intervention group lost 8.7 percent of their initial body weight after one year of the study versus 0.7 percent among the control group’s members; the intervention group also maintained a greater weight loss, 6 percent of their initial weight, versus 3.5 percent for the control group, at the study’s conclusion.
The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study is the first to achieve such sustained weight loss. A weight loss of 5 percent or more in short-term studies is considered to be clinically significant and has been shown to improve control of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other risk factors. Comparable weight loss can also help prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese adults.
John Jakicic, chair and professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity in Pitt’s School of Education and Director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, said weight loss improves physical function and quality of life, and causes reduction in risk factors like lipids and blood pressure with less reliance on medication, better diabetes control with less reliance on medication, improved sleep, psychological and emotional health benefits, and many others.
He said that adults with diabetes can begin to realize many of these health benefits with even modest reductions in body weight and modest increases in physical activity.
The study has been published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.