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Study of half a million obese adults shows benefit of weight loss on serious health problems

A study has quantified the significant benefits of intentional weight loss on the risk of obesity-related conditions in real-world clinical practice.

People with obesity who lost an average 13% of their initial body weight reduced their relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 42%-44%.

The risk of sleep apnoea was reduced by 22%-27%, high blood pressure by 18%-25%, and dyslipidaemia) by 20-22%, according to a study of over 550,000 adults in primary care in the UK.

Researchers analysed anonymised data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink database-which holds information on over 11 million patients from 674 general practice surgeries in the UK, dating from 1987 to the present-and Hospital Episodes Statistics.

They extracted data on over 550,000 adults (average age 51 years) with overweight (BMI 25 to 30 kg/m²) or obesity (BMI of 30 or above) between January 2001 and December 2010.

The researchers compared the risk of developing six obesity-related conditions (type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea, osteoarthritis, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, and unstable angina/heart attack) among those who lost weight and those who did not, during an average of 8 years follow up.

They then calculated the benefits of losing 13% of body weight for three risk profiles – BMI reduction from 34.5 to 30 kg/m²; 40.3 to 35 kg/m², and from 46 to 40kg/m².

Overall, the largest risk reductions were noted for type 2 diabetes. The estimates suggest that 13% weight loss in adults with obesity from BMI 34.5 to 30.0 kg/m² was associated with a 42% reduction in the relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a 25% reduction in the relative risk of developing high blood pressure and sleep apnoea, and a 20-22% reduction in osteoarthritis and dyslipidaemia risk, compared to risks before weight loss.

The trends for individuals who reduced their BMI from 40.3 to 35 kg/m² and 46 to 40kg/m² were similar.

However, the reduction in unstable angina/heart attack risk was not significant.

“Our results demonstrate the benefits of intentional weight loss in reducing the health burdens of obesity in real-world clinical practice,” says Christiane L Haase from Novo Nordisk, Denmark, who led the research. “It is important to emphasise that this is an observational study and can only show that there is an association between weight loss and reduced cardiovascular risk factors, not that weight loss causes that reduction in risk. Nevertheless, the difference in the risk of these conditions is striking and indicates that people with obesity could markedly reduce their disease risk through intentional weight loss.”

The study was presented at the European and International Congress on Obesity.

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