Weight Management Efforts Successful in Preventing Diabetes

Health initiatives should aim to prevent weight gain in order to avert new cases of diabetes.

Public health initiatives focused on preventing weight gain may prevent more cases of diabetes compared with initiatives focused on preventing diabetes in patients with obesity, according to a new study published by BMC Public Health.

Many physicians and public health campaigns focus on targeting patients at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, such as those with obesity or who have high blood glucose levels. Although this method can be effective, there is little evidence suggesting that it can reduce new cases of diabetes in the general population.

Currently, there is even less evidence regarding the impact of weight loss among adults of developing diabetes. This new study aimed to determine how public health initiatives based on weight could reduce the incidences of diabetes.

In the study, the researchers analyzed data from 33,184 patients aged 30 to 60 who received 2 health examinations 10 years apart between 1990 and 2013. Through this data, the investigators were able to find the link between change in bodyweight from baseline and occurrence of diabetes.

The investigators controlled for sex, age, year, familial history of diabetes, tobacco use, education, and marital status.

At the 10-year exam, 3.3% of patients had developed diabetes, and 53.9% of patients gained weight, while only 36.2% maintained their weight. Compared with those who maintained their weight, patients who gained weight had a 52% higher risk of diabetes, according to the study.

The authors found that if individuals who gained weight had not done so, 1 in 5 incidences of diabetes could have been prevented.

Interestingly, based on prior research, the investigators estimated that if everyone at high risk of diabetes related to increased body mass index was referred to a weight management program, only 1 in 10 cases would be prevented, according to the study.

The researchers warn that this model should be interpreted cautiously, since it represents an idealized environment.

However, these findings show that weight management strategies may be more effective at preventing diabetes when aimed at the general population compared with those aimed at high risk patients, according to the study.

"We have shown that a population-based strategy that promotes prevention of weight gain in adulthood has the potential to prevent more than twice as many diabetes cases as a strategy that only promotes weight loss in obese individuals at high risk of diabetes,” said first study author Adina Feldman, PhD. “Thus, when it comes to body weight and diabetes, from a public health perspective it would be advisable to consider both high-risk and population-based strategies for diabetes prevention."