It’s long been established — based on both research studies and real-world clinical experience — that in many people with Type 2 diabetes, losing weight can help control blood glucose levels. In fact, one of the very first posts here at Diabetes Flashpoints was a personal account of losing weight and reaching a lower HbA1c level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) on a low-carb diet.
But different studies over the years have focused on different populations of people with Type 2 diabetes, some of whom had higher HbA1c levels or were more overweight or obese than others. So in a study published last month in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, researchers sought to combine the results of several studies to find out whether there’s an overall pattern to how much HbA1c levels can be reduced by losing weight. They found 58 studies that met their criteria, conducted between 1990 and 2012, in which overweight or obese people with Type 2 diabetes lost weight through reduced-calorie diets, weight-loss drugs, or bariatric surgery. In these studies, a total of 17,204 people were followed for between 3 and 24 months after beginning their weight-loss intervention.
As noted in an article on the study at Physician’s Briefing, the researchers found that overall, there was a linear relationship between weight loss and HbA1c reduction. Specifically, the average person saw their HbA1c drop by 0.1% for each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of body weight lost — regardless of whether it was the first or last kilogram of weight loss over the course of the study. But that’s doesn’t mean this average applied to everyone — in fact, people with a higher starting HbA1c level saw a bigger drop in HbA1c for each kilogram of body weight lost, compared with those who started at a lower HbA1c level.
This study shouldn’t be considered definitive, and its researchers conclude that its results should be used to help design future studies on how weight-loss interventions can help manage Type 2 diabetes. But the results strongly suggest that the higher your HbA1c level, the more you have to gain, so to speak, by losing weight. This means that someone who is overweight, but not obese, and has a very high HbA1c level might benefit more from weight loss — at least in terms of diabetes control — than someone who is obese but has only a slightly elevated HbA1c level.
What’s your experience regarding weight loss and blood glucose control — have you ever lost weight and experienced a lower HbA1c level as a result? If so, how high was your HbA1c to begin with? Did your lower HbA1c last, whether you maintained the weight loss or put the weight back on? Do you think it’s realistic to make weight loss a major component of diabetes management, or are there better, more reliable ways to achieve lower blood glucose levels? Leave a comment below!