Weight Loss Didn't Cut Diabetic Heart Risk

Type 2 diabetes patients in intensive lifestyle did not have reduced rate of cardiovascular events

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Losing weight has been shown to reduce the risk of heart problems and other complications of diabetes. However, one weight loss program did not seem to protect diabetes patients from heart-related risks.

Type 2 diabetes patients who lost weight through an intensive diet and exercise program did not have a reduced risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, according to a recent study.

Even though the weight loss program did not reduce cardiovascular problems, patients benefited in other important ways.

"Eat healthy and exercise to control your diabetes."

In the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study, researchers set out to see if weight loss through lifestyle changes could reduce the rates of cardiovascular problems in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Rena Wing, PhD, of Brown University and chair of the Look AHEAD study, and colleagues specifically wanted to see if weight loss through diet and exercise could lower rates of heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular-related deaths in overweight and obese diabetes patients.

The Look AHEAD lifestyle program lowered rates of sleep apnea (trouble breathing during sleep), reduced the need for diabetes drugs, helped keep patients physically mobile and boosted quality of life.

"Look AHEAD found that people who are obese and have type 2 diabetes can lose weight and maintain their weight loss with a lifestyle intervention," said Dr. Wing.

"Although the study found weight loss had many positive health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, the weight loss did not reduce the number of cardiovascular events," she said.

The researchers had to stop the intensive lifestyle intervention early because it did not reduce the rate of cardiovascular events - the main goal of the study. However, according to the group in charge of the study's data and safety, the intervention did no harm to patients.

Few studies of this size and time span have led to such successful weight loss. On average, patients in the lifestyle intervention group lost more than 8 percent of their starting body weight after 1 year. After four years, these patients maintained a weight loss of almost 5 percent - the amount recommended by experts.

In comparison to the lifestyle intervention group, patients who received diabetes education lost only about 1 percent of their starting weight.

The researchers are still studying their data to get a better understanding of their cardiovascular results. That is, they want to know why patients did not have lower rates of cardiovascular events after weight loss.

According to Dr. Mary Evans, of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), "The intervention group did not have fewer cardiovascular events than the group receiving general diabetes support and education, but one positive factor we saw was that both groups had a low number of cardiovascular events compared to previous studies of people with diabetes."

"Look AHEAD provides important, definitive information about the long-term health effects of weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes," said Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, Director of the NIDDK - the main sponsor organization of the study.

"Beyond cardiovascular disease, this study and others have shown many other health benefits of weight loss through improved diet and increased physical activity," said Dr. Rodgers.

"For example, for overweight and obese adults at high risk for diabetes, modest weight loss has been shown to prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes," he said.

The study included about 5,000 overweight or obese patients with type 2 diabetes between 45 and 75 years of age. About 60 percent of participants were women. More than 37 percent were racial or ethnic minorities.

The study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. As such, the methods and data still need to be analyzed.

The research was supported by the NIDDK; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Nursing Research; the Office of Research on Women’s Health; the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities; the Indian Health Service; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 22, 2012
Last Updated:
October 23, 2012