Australian researchers develop new weight-loss strategies to tackle diabetes

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th May 2012

New research from Australia suggests that using a targeted high-risk prevention strategy to tackle obesity could avert around 220,000 cases of type 2 diabetes in the country by 2025.

The research is by Professor Jonathan Shaw, Associate Professor Anna Peeters, Dr Kathryn Backholer, and Associate Professor Dianna Magliano, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues.

Professor Shaw and colleagues are presenting the research findings today at the 19th European Congress on Obesity in Lyon, France (the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Obesity).

According to the researchers, a total of just over two million people (11.4 per cent of the population) will have diabetes in Australia by 2025, if current trends continue.

The researchers modelled future diabetes cases that could be averted using one of three strategies.

The first was a ‘junk food’ tax as a population-wide prevention intervention. In this scenario body mass index was assumed to decrease by around 0.5kg/m2.

The second strategy was based on prevention in those at high risk of developing diabetes. This involved intensive behavioural modification programs for those identified at high risk of future diabetes (those with high blood glucose levels).

This typically included six counselling sessions aimed at reducing fat and saturated fat in the diet, increasing fibre, participating in at least four hours of moderate physical activity per week and achieving a weight loss of more than five per cent over 8-12 months.

The third strategy was a treatment strategy for morbidly obese individuals with newly diagnosed diabetes, whereby surgically induced weight loss (adjustable gastric banding) resulted in a 73 per cent remission rate of type 2 diabetes, derived from a recent randomised controlled trial.

The researchers found their second strategy of high risk prevention was the most effective, averting 220,000 of cases by 2025, a reduction of some 10 per cent, reducing the projected prevalence of diabetes from 11.4% to 10% of the population.

The research found that the junk food tax prevention and surgically induced weight loss interventions prevented approximately 38,000 cases and 65,000 cases of diabetes in 2025 respectively. Combining the three interventions would avert around 253,000 cases.

Dr Backholer said, “Given the costly complications associated with diabetes, reducing the burden of diabetes by even 10 per cent is likely to have a profound influence on Australia’s health care system.

“The costs of managing diabetes are likely to increase over time as the population ages and people with diabetes are receiving better treatment and thus living longer.”

Dr Backholer added, “We need to focus preventive efforts towards intensive lifestyle intervention programs to ensure the best success of reducing the future burden of diabetes.”