The programme also led to improved control of blood glucose levels and reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease, both of which are critical in preventing long-term complications caused by diabetes.
The study included 5,145 overweight or obese people, average age 58.7, with type 2 diabetes. About half were assigned to a lifestyle intervention that included diet changes and physical activity designed to achieve a 7% weight loss in the first year and maintain it in subsequent years.
The other participants were assigned to a diabetes education and support group that held three sessions a year to discuss diet, exercise and social support.
After four years, the participants in the lifestyle intervention group had lost an average of 6.2% of their body weight, compared with 0.9 percent for the diabetes support group. The lifestyle intervention group also had greater improvements in fitness, blood glucose control, blood pressure and levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.
The study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
"Although the differences between the two groups were greatest initially and decreased over time for several measures, the differences between the two groups averaged across the four years were substantial. [The results] indicate that the intensive lifestyle intervention group spent a considerable time at lower cardiovascular disease risk," the researchers wrote. (September 2010)
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