Lasting Benefits of Weight Loss in Type 2 Diabetes Patients

In a Kaiser Permanente weight loss group, patients dropped an average of 23 pounds, and showed better control of their blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Results of a Kaiser Permanente study published in an online edition of Diabetes Care shows that patients with type 2 diabetes who lose weight soon after the diagnosis may be twice as likely to maintain control of their disease even if they regain the weight.

In the study of more than 2,000 adults conducted from 1997-2002, in an 18-month period, 76% of patients maintained their weight, 12% gained weight, and another 12% lost weight. In the weight loss group, patients dropped an average of 23 pounds, and although at the 36-month mark most patients had gained back the weight, they still showed better control of their blood pressure and blood sugar levels than those patients who had gained or even maintained weight.

Dr. Adrianne Feldstein, MD, MS, the study's lead author, noted the study’s importance: "We've known for a long time that weight loss is an important component in diabetes treatment and prevention. Now it appears there may be a critical window of opportunity following diagnosis in which some lasting gains can be achieved if people are willing to take immediate steps toward lifestyle changes.”

There is no conclusive evidence indicating why the regain group maintained the benefits of their initial weight loss. It is hypothesized that the body, using a “metabolic memory,” simply remembers these benefits. Skeptics point out that further weight monitoring may show these benefits fade over time.

Nevertheless, with the American Diabetes Association estimating that more than 20 million Americans have diabetes, and in many cases are also over-weight, these findings stress the importance of improved patient education on the topic of weight loss and healthy lifestyle changes.

Patient Ed Resources

Weight Loss Matters Tip Sheet from the American Diabetes Association

Healthy Diabetes Diet Basics from WebMD

Defeat Diabetes Foundation Nutrition Guide