Oct 21, 2012 1:12 PM GMT
It seemed logical that diet and exercise would help reduce that risk. An earlier federal study found that an intense diet and exercise program helped prevent overweight or obese people with elevated blood sugar levels from crossing the line into diabetes. The hope was that a similar program could also protect people from heart disease.
The study randomly assigned 5,145 overweight or obese people with Type 2 diabetes to either a rigorous diet and exercise regimen or to sessions in which they got general health information. The diet involved 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day for those weighing less than 250 pounds and 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day for those weighing more. The exercise program was at least 175 minutes a week of moderate exercise.
But 11 years after the study began, researchers concluded it was futile to continue — the two groups had nearly identical rates of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths.
The investigators are analyzing their data and will be publishing them in research papers.
But the outcome is clear, said Dr. David Nathan, a principal investigator and director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We have to have an adult conversation about this,” he said. “This was a negative result.”
The study participants assigned to the intensive exercise and diet program did lose about 5 percent of their weight and managed to keep it off during the study. That was enough to reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
“We showed that meaningful weight loss — let’s put ‘meaningful’ in quotes — could be established and maintained,” Dr. Nathan said. “To me that means we did a good experiment. We had a fair test of this hypothesis.”