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The Lasting Benefits of Losing Weight

by Joseph Gustaitis

If you’ve been told recently that you have Type 2 diabetes, the last thing you should do is feel helpless. There’s actually one really important thing you can start working on to improve your health. And you can, and should, do it fast.

Recently, researchers at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, studied the effects of weight loss on people who had just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Using electronic health records, they analyzed three years’ worth of information for 2,574 people aged 21–75. The researchers noted that most of the people hadn’t lost any weight during the period being reviewed, but 314 of them had. That group had lost an average of 23 pounds. Next, the scientists compared how well all of the people had controlled their blood glucose levels and their blood pressure in the fourth year after their diabetes diagnosis.

As you might expect, those who had lost weight had better control of their blood glucose and blood pressure. But the big surprise was that although by that fourth year the members of this group had, on average, regained the weight they had lost, their numbers were still better.

The researchers weren’t sure why this happened. Perhaps the initial weight loss increased sensitivity to insulin in the bodies of these people. Maybe it was just a matter of sustained lifestyle changes. Whatever the reason, the Kaiser Permanente study was the first to show that the benefits of weight loss remain even if people with diabetes regain the weight they lose.

The researchers concluded that it’s important to strike while the iron is hot. People will be at their highest motivation to lose weight when they are first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes — a time when they may be particularly concerned about their health. As one of the researchers put it, this period is a “critical window of opportunity.”



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