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Mon, Jun-25-01, 21:55
Monday June 25 5:28 PM ET
Study to Examine How Weight Loss Affects Diabetes
By Suzanne Rostler

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Health) - In response to the burgeoning rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in America, the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) (NIH) launched a study on Monday investigating the long-term effects of weight loss on adults with the disease.

The study, called Look AHEAD (for Action for Health in Diabetes) will compare the effects of diet, exercise and behavioral counseling with those of counseling and education on the risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and a number of other indicators of health. About 5,000 overweight diabetic patients age 45-75 years will be studied over a 12-year period.

Previous research has shown that short-term weight loss can lower the risk of complications from diabetes such as heart disease but the benefits of long-term weight loss have not been well studied, Dr. Rena R. Wing, a co-chair of the study and professor at Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island, explained in an interview.

``We will study individuals with diabetes and evaluate the long-term impact of weight loss on various measures of health (including) quality of life, sleep problems, arthritis and fitness changes,'' she said.

Excess weight has been shown to make the body less responsive to insulin, the hormone that clears the blood of glucose (sugar) after a meal and deposits it into the body's tissues for use as energy. To compensate, the pancreas secretes more insulin but eventually gives up, and diabetes develops, Wing explained. Over time, elevated blood glucose can increase the risk of kidney failure, heart disease, blindness and nerve damage leading to amputation.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.

A recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) (CDC) found that the rate of type 2 diabetes rose 6% among adults in 1999 alone. The report followed data published several months earlier showing that from 1990 to 1998, diabetes rose a staggering 33% among US adults, from 4.9% to 6.5% overall.

Individuals who wish to enroll in the study can call 866-552-4323.

The study was announced at the American Diabetes Association's annual meeting here. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a unit of the NIH, will fund the study, which is expected to cost more than $180 million.