Type 2 Diabetes: long-term weight loss back brings about enormous benefits

In the latest issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, a team of researchers studied the association between regaining weight after weight loss and the change in cardiometabolic risk factors. The study used data from Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes), an important study that supports changes in the lifestyle of individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Look AHEAD was a large-scale project conducted from 2001 to 2012 that examined the effect of an intensive lifestyle change on the life of patients. The project focused on weight loss through increased exercise and a reduction in calorie intake. The final objective was to study how these changes would influence cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors. Management of these factors is fundamental in people with diabetes given that cardiovascular complications are the main cause of death in Italy. The study was conducted in the United States, where 9.4% of the population has type 2 diabetes, which produced an expenditure of 327 billion dollars for the US government only in 2017.

The results of the study are interesting, even if sometimes obvious. People with type 2 diabetes that were successful in long-term weight loss showed a reduction in cardiometabolic risk factors while those who regained weight saw an increase in risk factors.

Benefits of long-term weight loss

The Look AHEAD study evaluated around 1600 participants that enacted a radical change in lifestyle.

Each person that lost at least 10% of their body weight and kept the weight off for four years saw an improvement in cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. The same improvement was not seen in individuals that regained the weight lost.

According to researchers, however, not all is lost. If individuals do not gain more than 25% of body weight, they may obtain cardiometabolic benefits. Thus, losing weight to completely (or almost completely) gain it back is useless,  but a discreet percentage of body weight loss is still positive.

The cost of diabetes

At first glance, the results of this study may seem ordinary and yet the disease continues to be underestimated, despite alarming numbers. In Italy alone, more than 4 million people are affected. Diabetes is becoming an epidemic that is quickly spreading, with a death rate three times higher than the healthy population.

Quantifying the exact cost of healthcare for people with type 2 diabetes, in Italy and throughout the world, is not easy, but there is no doubt these costs represent a huge burden for national healthcare systems. In Italy, each patient costs approximately €2,589 per year while treatments make up about 9% of the budget, or rather,  €8.26 billion each year.
These are substantial figures that make diabetes one of the greatest financial burdens for the Italian healthcare system. A significant part of these expenses could be reduced simply through prevention, a healthy lifestyle and basic targeted therapies. One example is intensive and preventative treatment of the disease at onset, which not only improves the quality of life of the patient with diabetes, but also cuts down on health costs.

© Domedica s.r.l.

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