A new study has found that even a small weight loss can durably help people with diabetes improve their heart health.
Previous research suggested that benefits for cardiovascular health (health of the heart and blood vessel) become especially evident if and when the person is able to maintain just a seven per cent weight loss.
Here, researchers demonstrated that this indeed holds true. They also point out where improvements are seen in terms of risk factors, as well as how long someone should maintain weight loss to achieve them.
The study enrolled 129 obese participants in a 12-week weight loss programmen, and measured at the end of it and five years later changes in their HbA1c, cholesterol levels and blood pressure resulting from the drop in weight.
The participants, of whom 120 had type 2 diabetes and nine had type 1 diabetes, lowered their body weight by an average of 9.7 per cent at 12 weeks.
One year later, researchers checked the weight loss they were able to maintain on their own over time and divided them into two groups. One group included those who maintained less than seven per cent of weight loss (61), while the other included those who showed a seven per cent or greater weight loss (68).
Results indicate that the lower-weight-loss group – where people only maintained a 3.5 per cent weight loss – experienced the highest increase in their HbA1c levels, with values rising from 49.7 mmol/mol (6.7%) after the weight loss programme to 63.9 mmol/mol (8.0%) after five years.
Comparatively, those in the second group, who managed to maintain a nine per cent weight loss, had less of a rebound in their HbA1c. Their levels went from 46.4 mmol/mol (6.4%) at 12 weeks to 56.3 mmol/mol (7.3%) after five years.
The higher-weight-loss group showed continued improvements in levels of LDL as well as HDL cholesterol. The participants in this group also had lower blood pressure readings for 18 months.
Despite gaining some of the weight back, the lower-weight-loss group seemed to have retained cardioprotective effects conferred by the initial weight loss they achieved. They too had better LDL and HDL levels recorded over five years. Their blood pressure remained, however, unchanged.
The findings show that heart health benefits are lost at much slower pace in those who sustain some weight loss for at least a year, especially when the amount of weight loss is equal to or greater than seven per cent of a person’s initial weight.

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