A Little Weight Loss Goes a Long Way With Diabetes Remission

Whew! Turns out, you probably don’t have to lose a bajillion pounds to successfully manage your type 2 diabetes.

by Stephanie Stephens Health Writer

Thinking about "losing weight" can sometimes feel like a heavy lift, especially if you're "crazy-busy" and have lots on your to-do plate. A new study from England shares really encouraging news about big results from a little weight loss if you have type 2 diabetes—as 400 million people worldwide do.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that—despite previous studies that advocated significant weight loss—just losing 10% of weight or more, during the first year or first five years after diagnosis with type 2 diabetes was "strongly associated" with remission. So someone weighing 130 pounds would lose 13 pounds, or someone weighing 150 pounds would lose 15 pounds, which feels pretty doable.

Here's even better news from the study published in Diabetes Medicine: The weight loss doesn't require intensive lifestyle interventions, meaning you don't have to start running miles each day, making extreme calorie interventions, or starting a radical diet that leaves you feeling deprived. It also doesn't require pharmacological help or medications, or surgery to achieve this realistic goal.

Easy Does It for Results

For someone just diagnosed with diabetes who's also adapting to a new eating plan and learning to monitor blood glucose, adding another challenge to the list can feel daunting. But thinking about losing a small amount of weight doesn't seem so unachievable.

"This may provide some rationale for motivating people with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes to lose weight rather than focusing on specific and potentially unachievable weight targets," the authors said. They also say that previous research has shown that when people set unrealistically high goals, that can prove detrimental in the end.

What Study Participants Did

The authors' research involved data on 867 study participants between ages 40 and 69 years old, recently diagnosed with diabetes. They were part of the ADDITION-Cambridge trial that was conducted among 49 general medical practices in the east of England. Study members self-reported, via questionnaire, information on diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking status, while researchers measured body weight and height, blood pressure, and took blood samples.

At the point of five years, 257 study participants or approximately 30% showed they were in remission. Even better, realizing a weight loss of 10% or more within that initial five-year period meant they were more than twice as likely to achieve remission than their study counterparts whose weight stayed the same.

The research team added that the sample wasn't ethnically diverse and included mainly white, European participants in the local population. In the future, they'd like to see further work in more ethnically and socially diverse populations, and an assessment of the relationship between remission and longer-term clinical outcomes like mortality.

Commonsense Weight-Loss Success Tips

The authors said that they hoped their results would motivate people with type 2 diabetes to move forward in using weight loss to achieve remission. If you're ready to tackle type 2 diabetes and weight loss, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases suggests talking to your doctor or other provider first. Bring a list of questions so you both address the issues important to your success form the get-go.

Also, if you're searching the internet for a weight-loss program, watch out for claims like:

  • Lose weight without diet or exercise!

  • Lose weight while eating as much as you want of all your favorite foods!

  • Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!

  • Lose weight in specific problem areas of your body!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes you'll consider these helpful hints to pave your road to weight-loss success:

1) Make a commitment: Write yourself an agreement and sign it. Now your commitment is to you and you alone. While you're penning, notate the reasons you want to lose weight, and in this case, the main one is to help put that type 2 diabetes right into remission.

2) Take stock of where you are: That's similar to what the researchers did with their study participants, logging details about eating, exercise, and other pertinent facts. Try to understand why you do what you do—or don't do—and how you can make changes that support your weight-loss goals.

3) Set realistic goals: On the subject of goals, as this study shows, yours don't have to be super lofty. As the CDC reminds you, goals that work are specific, realistic, and forgiving, meaning be nice to yourself when you slip off the track. Document and celebrate small changes (Hurray!) and please don't compare yourself to anyone else.

4) Identify resources for information and support: Reach out to friends and family, fellow workers and neighbors, and join a weight loss group to add extra impetus to your solo efforts.

5) Check in with your progress: So you set your goals, and maybe, after a period of time, you find that they need tweaking or adjusting because of your daily schedule, for example. That's normal. Go ahead and rewrite them, and if you're feeling like "I've got this," consider adding a new goal for challenge. Oh, and don't forget those small rewards that don't involve food.

Stephanie Stephens
Meet Our Writer
Stephanie Stephens

Stephanie Stephens is a very experienced digital journalist, audio/video producer and host who covers health, healthcare and health policy, along with celebrities and their health, for a variety of publications, websites, networks, content agencies and other distinctive clients. Stephanie was accepted to THREAD AT YALE for summer 2018 to author and produce an investigative series. She is also active in the animal welfare community.