A major new study has found that shedding weight significantly cuts the risk of developing a group of chronic health conditions – with a loss of 13 per cent body weight reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by 42 per cent.
The research, presented to the online European and International Congress on Obesity, was based on GP surgery data over eight years and examined the impact of weight loss on 500,000 overweight Britons, who had an average age of 51.
Britain continues to soar high in European obesity rates, with two thirds of adults overweight and the NHS spending £10billion a year treating diabetes.
Among the potential health benefits reported, the research found that losing around weight reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea, where breathing is interrupted during sleep.
Mobility problems caused by arthritis affecting hip and knee joints were also found to be less likely to occur in slimmer patients.
Even if a person was still considered obese – with a BMI of over 30 – following weight loss, their risk of developing chronic health conditions remained reduced.
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Danish healthcare firm Novo Nordisk carried out the research, weighing the adults participating four years after initial measurements were recorded.
While 492,000 people monitored lost no weight, those who recorded at least a ten per cent weight loss were found to be dramatically healthier in terms of their risks of developing chronic illness – although there was limited reduction on heart attack risk.
Dr Christiane Haase, study author, said: “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.”
Professor Jason Halford, president elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, said: “We ignore obesity at our peril.
“Weight management is clearly one of the best ways to control diseases including diabetes. This study shows the importance of investing in prevention and support to help people lose weight now, rather than waiting for them to turn up in hospital with severe complications ten years down the line.”
Professor Nick Finer of Novo Nordisk said: “Health policy has been much happier to treat diabetes when it develops rather than the obesity which causes it to develop.
“That is completely illogical. Now we have evidence that if you lose weight you can prevent these diseases – which are expensive to treat – from developing. It should be a wake-up call to healthcare providers and policymakers.”
Last week, the NHS announced plans to offer 800 calorie soup and shake diets to thousands of type 2 diabetics.