One day, Karen Collingwood decided to walk on the beach. It took an hour to go a third of a mile.
That’s because she weighed 370 pounds.
So Collingwood considered two choices: live or die. She knew that if she didn’t lose weight, she had a good chance of developing type 2 diabetes, a life-threatening disease mostly affecting the obese. So, she started the weight loss drug Xenical, changed her diet and started exercising.
Today, she has Mt. Kilimanjaro in her sights, a mountain in Africa so tall that its peak has ice.
Researchers were intrigued by stories like Collingwood’s. So, they did a four-year study that revealed for the first time that a weight-loss drug might help prevent or delay adult-onset diabetes among the obese.
The risk of developing the disease was 37 percent lower in patients treated with Xenical and changed their diets compared with patients who only changed diet.
“Any agent that can help reduce the risk of diabetes is exciting,” said Dr. Francine Kauffman, a pediatric endocrinologist and president of the American Diabetes Association. “This is very encouraging.”
Studies already show exercise and diet are significant factors in helping to reduce the risk of diabetes, she said. With diabetes approaching epidemic proportions, Americans need to do all they can to help prevent diabetes and get healthy.
What is it?
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body’s inability to make enough or properly use insulin. Type 2 accounts for nearly 95 percent of diabetes cases and is the fifth deadliest disease in the Unites States.
An increasing number of older Americans, soaring obesity rates and the declining amounts of exercise contribute to diabetes becoming an epidemic among adults. Risk for stroke, heart disease, blindness, high blood pressure, kidney disease and amputations are often caused by diabetes. And more than half of all Americans are overweight or obese.
The study, sponsored by Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., looked at 3,304 obese patients at risk for diabetes during a four-year period. Not only did the medication seem to alleviate the diabetes risk, but it also showed significant improvements in cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and lipid profiles compared with patients taking placebos.
“Against a background of several studies that show lifestyle intervention in the prevention of diabetes to be successful, it is a significant step forward,” said Lars Sjostrom, a principal investigator of the study and a doctor at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden.
These results are consistent with two recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine that show exercise and diet changes can help prevent the onset of diabetes.
“My blood sugar is completely normal,” said Collingwood, who lost 100 pounds in a year with Xenical’s help. “Life is good.”