Lifestyle Medicine Works

Lifestyle Medicine Works

Two studies published this year demonstrate the powerful impact of weight on health and how lifestyle medicine can help. These show that maintaining a healthy weight can substantially reduce your risk of developing problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, and losing weight if you are overweight can reduce or eliminate the need for medications to control these conditions.

Studies on Lifestyle Medicine

Weight Gain and Increased Risk of Chronic Illnesses

The first study published in July looked at weight gain and health risk over the course of early and middle adulthood, and calculated health risks later in life. The researchers looked at data from over 100,000 people, and found two interesting findings. First, weight gain was common. Between age 18-21 and age 55, women gained an average of 22 pounds and men gained an average of 19 pounds. Second, compared with those whose weight stayed within 5 pounds of young-adult weight, those who gained weight had an increased risk of multiple chronic diseases. For every 11 pounds of weight gained, the risk of type 2 diabetes increased by 30%, high blood pressure by 14%, and cardiovascular disease by 8%. The risk of dying of obesity related cancer increased 6% for each 11 pound weight gain, and among non-smokers there was a 5% increased risk of dying prematurely.

What do I suggest based on this study? If you are a current 20-year-old or 30-year-old, now is the time to take hold of your health! Don’t take your health for granted. The demands of career, marriage, and young children certainly distract from our attention to personal well-being, but you cannot be at your best for others if you are not taking care of yourself physically. If you find your weight is already starting to creep up, take that as a strong signal to take action. If you are trying to get weight off, but not getting results, then seek help. Don’t keep trying the same approach if it’s not working!

Weight Gain and Type 2 Diabetes

The second study was just published in December and involved 298 patients with type 2 diabetes involved in a weight loss program. These patients had diabetes for a maximum of 6 years,  were on oral diabetes medications (no insulin), and they had hemoglobin A1c values below 12%. The patients were divided into two groups, with the first group receiving standard care, and the second group starting a low calorie diet plan (800-900 calories per day) for 3 months, followed by reintroduction of calories over 2-8 weeks. One quarter of those in the intervention group lost at least 33 pounds, which was the study goal (compared with 0% in the standard care group). Even more striking was the percentage who achieved remission of diabetes by study end (remission was defined as maintaining A1c below 6.5% without any diabetes medications for at least 2 months).

Remission rates varied by weight loss achieved:

Weight gain = 0% remission rate

0-11 pound loss = 7% remission rate

11-22 pound loss = 34% remission rate

22-33 pound loss = 57% remission rate

More than 33 pound loss = 86% remission rate

Losing over 22 pounds of excess weight gives you a greater than 50% chance of stopping all oral diabetes medication. I just recently saw an example of the power of weight loss personally, when a man on our LeanMD weight loss program, lost over 20 pounds and was able to stop using insulin to control his blood sugar. Imagine my joy (and his!) when he became tearful when he realized he didn’t need to use insulin for the rest of his life! Helping people to achieve their goals and live healthier lives is why I am a doctor. Of course, he will need to do the work of continuing his healthy lifestyle to maintain this benefit, but I am convinced his new success will motivate him to do so.

Lifestyle Medicine Can Help You

This second study demonstrates the power of changing lifestyle habits to treat established conditions like diabetes. If you have diabetes, would you like to be able to stop some or all of your medications? How would that make you feel? If you have not made the decision to lose weight, maybe today is the day to make that decision! And if you have already made that decision, but are having a hard time making progress, maybe now is the time to get help with the process! From reading about weight loss programs that might suit you, enrolling in Weight Watchers, or starting our LeanMD weight loss program, there are many options available to help your achieve your goal. Make a change today to start on your path to better health!

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