Obesity Great Diabetes Risk

Tue, 22 Nov 2005
Obesity is a great diabetes risk.

Many Americans are overweight because losing the extra pounds is so difficult. Unless someone is heavy enough to justify the risk of surgery, obese people have a choice of making lifestyle changes that most eventually abandon, or anti-obesity pills that typically trim only 10 to 15 pounds. But a new study suggests that a combination of intensive counseling and drugs is almost twice as effective as either approach on its own, offering a glimmer of hope in the battle against the second leading cause of preventable death.

In the study, led by Thomas Wadden of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 60 obese volunteers lost an average of 27 pounds after a year in which they attended 30 group sessions on the importance of diet and exercise, and took Meridia, one of two weight-loss drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. By comparison, the 55 patients who took Meridia but received no counseling lost just 11 pounds. A third group of 55 who attended group counselling sessions alone lost an average of 15 pounds. The top weight losers in the study wrote down what they ate, which seemed to reduce their overall consumption.

Counseling combined with a prescription weight-loss drug may help overweight patients lose enough weight to reduce their risk of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart attack.

The study is relatively small and covered just one year, leaving open the possibility that people could regain weight over a longer time frame. Moreover, a weight loss of 27 pounds is not sufficient for many obese people: a 240-pound man who is 6 feet tall needs to lose 55 pounds to no longer be considered overweight.

Doctors still need more effective treatments to reduce the health damage from obesity. Drug companies are testing the next generation of weight-loss drugs, such as rimonabant, which -- according to another study in the same publication -- reduces cardiovascular health-risks associated with obesity while helping patients shed pounds.
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