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The behavioral strategies used by the participants to help them lose weight included keeping track of everything they ate, reducing the amount of unhealthy food they kept in their home and increasing their amount of physical activity.
Even a modest weight loss -- an average of 14 pounds -- reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. And the health benefits of this weight loss lasted up to 10 years, even if people regained the weight, said study author Rena Wing, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
The study was scheduled for presentation Thursday at the American Psychological Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
"Helping people find ways to change their eating and activity behaviors and developing interventions other than medication to reinforce a healthy lifestyle have made a huge difference in preventing one of the major health problems in this country," Wing, who is also director of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, said in an association news release.
"Weight losses of just 10 percent of a person's body weight ... have also been shown to have a long-term impact on sleep apnea, hypertension and quality of life, and to slow the decline in mobility that occurs as people age," she noted.
"We are trying to show that behavior changes not only make people healthier in terms of reducing heart disease risk factors but actually can make them live longer," she said.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
-- Robert Preidt
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