Losing weight does not lower the risk of diabetes-related heart problems, according to new research.
The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study found that with a controlled diet and exercise the resulting weight loss doesn’t actually reduce the chances of cardiovascular events in overweight and obese people with long-standing type 2 diabetes.
The investigation was carried out by researchers across the United States and included a total of 5,145 people. Half of the study participants were randomly assigned to receive an intensive lifestyle intervention while the other half were given general diabetes support and education. Both groups received routine medical care from their own health care providers.
After 1 year, those in the intervention group lost an average of more than 8 per cent of their initial body weight and, after 4 years, maintained an average weight loss of nearly 5 per cent. In comparison, those in the support and education group lost around 1 per cent of their initial weight after one and four years.
Weight loss was shown to have many health benefits, including cutting dependence on diabetes medications, decreasing sleep apnea, helping maintain physical mobility and improving overall quality of life. It was also shown to prevent or delay development of type 2 diabetes for overweight/obese adults at high risk of the disease.
But after 11 years of interventio, the researchers saw no reduction in rates of heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular-related deaths – the primary goal of the study.
“Although the study found weight loss had many positive health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, the weight loss did not reduce the number of cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Rena Wing, chair of the Look AHEAD study and professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown University.
The researchers did note, however, that both groups had a low number of cardiovascular events compared to previous studies of diabetic patients.
A report on the findings is being prepared for a peer-reviewed publication.

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