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Biggest Losers with Diabetes Shed Medications

Biggest losers shed more than pounds

Contestants in The Biggest Loser participate in the show because they want to lose a significant amount of weight and to compete for big prize money. But an additional benefit for participants who have prediabetes or diabetes has been their ability to shed their use of diabetes medications within weeks of starting the show's exercise program.

Could you be a big loser too?

"The Biggest Loser" was a topic of discussion during the recent annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in Philadelphia, where the show's medical advisor, Robert Huizenga, MD, explained the health improvements seen in contestants with prediabetes and diabetes. Those improvements were reported in 35 contestants who were the subject of a retrospective study.

The 17 men and 18 women had a mean weight of 315 pounds and a mean body mass index (BMI) of 46 at the start of the show. Before going on the show, the contestants averaged 5 to 6 hours of TV watching daily and exercised about 120 minutes per week.

Seventeen of the study participants had normal glucose tolerance, 12 had prediabetes, and six had diabetes. The authors followed the men and women for 24 weeks.

Once the contestants joined the show, their physical activity levels rose dramatically from 2 hours per week to 4 hours per day: 1 hour of intense aerobics, 1 hour of intense resistance training, and 2 hours of moderate aerobics.

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Here's a rundown of what the authors observed:

  • Average weight loss for the 35 participants was 3.7% at week 1, 14.3% at week 5, and 31.9% at week 24
  • Within just 1 week, individuals with prediabetes and diabetes showed improvement in fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and adiponectin (a protein involved in regulating the metabolism of glucose)
  • By week 5, blood pressure had declined from 138/90 to 123/76 mmHg, and everyone was able to stop their blood pressure medication
  • Also by week 5, "all diagnostic criteria for prediabetes, diabetes, and hypertension were absent in each participant, despite discontinuation of all diabetes and hypertension medications," reported Huizenga
  • At 24 weeks (6 months), percentage of body fat had declined from 48% to 30%, and HbA1c had declined 0.53%

Biggest Loser Diet number 1 for diabetes
In January 2012, US News and World Report rated The Biggest Loser Diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) tied for the position as number 1 diet for fighting and managing diabetes. These two diets won out over 23 other entries, although they had some tough competition from three that tied for second place: the Ornish Diet, the Mayo Clinic diet, and the vegan diet.

Cheryl Forberg, a registered dietitian and the nutritionist for "The Biggest Loser" for 12 seasons, also co-authored the diet for the show and counseled all of the show's contestants over the years. She noted that 25% of participants have diabetes when they report to The Ranch (where contestants participate in new eating habits and exercise programs), "but they all leave without it."

Huizenga noted that by the end of the program, contestants averaged 1 to 2 hours per day watching TV or using a computer. All the participants are told to exercise 90 minutes per day for the rest of their lives.

For "The Biggest Loser" contestants who start the show with prediabetes or diabetes, there's an opportunity to lose more than excess pounds--a chance to stop taking medications for diabetes and high blood pressure and a chance to have more control over their lives and their health. Can the biggest losers motivate you?

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
US News and World Report

Image: Morguefile