Weight Loss May Not Decrease Heart Disease
June 25, 2013

Study Says Weight Loss Alone May Not Decrease Risk Of Heart Disease

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The results of a long-term study on Type 2 diabetes patients showed weight loss does not convey a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. However, it did show that these patients could see other medical and lifestyle benefits from shedding a few pounds.

Started in 2001, the study involved over 5,000 people at 16 different clinical sites across the United States. Participants were divided into two groups: one was provided with a program of weight management and exercise, the other was given only general health information and social support.

Dubbed Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes), the study was intended to last just over 13 years, but an independent monitoring board said it could be concluded early since no differences in cardiovascular disease rates were seen between the study's weight loss and counseling groups, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"While the findings from the Look AHEAD study did not support that engagement in a weight-loss intervention was effective for reducing the onset of cardiovascular disease incidence or mortality, this does not mean that overweight adults with diabetes should not lose weight and become more physically active," said co-author John Jakicic, a director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Rather, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence from this study to date that has shown that weight loss and physical activity were associated with numerous other health benefits.”

Participants in the exercise group lost 8.7 percent of their starting body weight after one year, compared to 0.7 percent among the control group's members, the researchers said. The exercise group also maintained a higher level of weight loss, averaging 6 percent at the study's conclusion.

Researchers noted a weight loss of 5 percent is clinically significant and has been shown to improve control of blood sugar levels, cholesterol and other risk factors.

"(Other health benefits) include improving physical function and quality of life, reduction in risk factors such as 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," Jakicic said.

"Thus, 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 researchers said they were unsure why the weight loss failed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They suggested more weight loss and additional preventative steps could reduce cardiovascular risk levels in diabetes patients who are overweight.

Type 2 diabetes affects about 25 million Americans over the age of 20 and is the most prevalent form of the disease. The condition can lead to increased incidence of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease and even amputations.

The incurable disease can be managed with diet, at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, modest weight loss, and medications. The Look AHEAD study did show that these lifestyle factors can help to manage the disease, researchers said.