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Modest weight loss has lasting benefits
[Posted: Fri 03/08/2012 by Gillian Tsoi www.irishhealth.com]
Overweight and obese people can achieve a decade's worth of important health benefits by losing just 20 pounds, even if they regain the weight later, according to new research from the US.
Researchers from the Diabetes Prevention Program, focused on a US study of 3,000 overweight people with impaired glucose tolerance, who were shown how to change their behaviour rather than given drugs.
It showed that even modest weight loss, an average of 14 pounds, reduced people's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58%.
What's more, the health benefits of this weight loss lasted up to 10 years, even if people gained the weight back over this time.
Participants in the program practiced basic behavioral strategies to help them lose weight, including tracking everything they ate and reducing the amount of unhealthy foods they kept in their home. They also met with exercise coaches frequently and increased their physical activity over the course of the study.
"Helping people find ways to change their eating and activity behaviors and developing interventions other than medication to reinforce a healthy lifestyle have made a huge difference in preventing one of the major health problems in this country," said Rena Wing, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and director of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at The Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island.
"Weight losses of just 10% of a person's body weight (or about 20 pounds in those who weigh 200 pounds) have also been shown to have a long-term impact on sleep apnea, hypertension and quality of life, and to slow the decline in mobility that occurs as people age."
Wing is leading a 13-year trial of 5,000 people with Type 2 diabetes. This study is testing whether an intensive behavioral intervention can decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. "We are trying to show that behavior changes not only make people healthier in terms of reducing heart disease risk factors but actually can make them live longer," she said.
Another researcher, Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, focused on the addictive impact of food.
He said: "The primary question is whether foods, particularly those high in sugar, act on the brain in ways that create signs of addiction.
"Craving and withdrawal signs can be seen in animal and human brain imaging studies conducted by investigators around the world. This could fundamentally change the debate about diet, nutrition and obesity in this country."
If foods have addictive properties, policymakers might be spurred to create laws that would set limits on certain nutrients in food and curtail advertising of these types of foods to children, he said.
The research was presented at the American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida.
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