CHICAGO — Results from the 11-year-long Look AHEAD study found that an intensive lifestyle intervention was not statistically better than usual medical care in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, but was beneficial in reducing medications, hospitalizations, medical care costs, depression, and very high risk kidney disease, as well as in improving physical quality of life in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes.
The study results were presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 73rd Scientific Sessions® meeting and simultaneously published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Thomas A. Wadden, PhD, professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and director of Penn's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, served as principal investigator at the Penn trial site, one of 16 sites nationwide, and chaired the trial's committee that developed the weight loss intervention.
Researchers found that long-term weight loss was greater in the intensive intervention group. The intervention group lost 8.6 percent of initial weight the first year and maintained a loss of 6 percent at an average of 9.6 years of treatment. The control group lost 0.7 percent of their body weight the first year and concluded the trial with a loss of 3.5 percent.
"There are many positive health benefits of weight loss, including improving diabetes control, sleep apnea and urinary incontinence, as well as slowing the decline in physical functioning that occurs with aging," said Dr. Wadden.
"One reason that we may not have found differences between the two groups in the rates of heart attack and stroke is that both groups had excellent control of blood pressure and lipids, as a result of taking medications." By the end of the study, more than 85 percent of participants took blood pressure medications and 72 percent took statins to lower bad cholesterol. "There may not have been much room to reveal the effects of weight loss and physical activity on cardiovascular outcomes after controlling these health risks so well," noted Dr. Wadden.
Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.
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