Weight Watchers Meetings Can Help Prevent Diabetes
About 57 million people have pre-diabetes, a condition of increased blood sugar that is not yet clinically classified as full-blown type-2 diabetes, but precedes the condition in most cases. In the past, many referred to this as “borderline diabetes.” Recent research has shown that even in this early stage of hyperglycemia, long-term damage may already be occurring.
According to the American Diabetes Association, treatment for pre-diabetes includes losing a modest amount of weight, about 5 to 10% of total body weight, through diet and exercise. A new study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine has found attending Weight Watchers meetings, or similar group weight loss program, can significantly reduce fasting glucose and insulin levels – important indicators of diabetes risk.
Sixty-one overweight or obese men and women participated in a 6-month Weight Watchers program that included education on a lower calorie diet, exercise plan, and weekly group support sessions. Those who attended the most sessions had the most success, reinforcing the importance of group support in lifestyle changes.
The Weight Watchers plan is popular and successful because it incorporates a lifestyle behavioral change into weight loss for long-term success. According to the company website, “The Weight Watchers approach provides a structured method to lose weight, emphasizing lifestyle modification with its healthy food plans, activity plan, behavior modification, and supportive atmosphere.”
On Weight Watchers, participants are not restricted to certain foods or activities. The plan provides a point system, based on a calculation of calories, fat and fiber, and dieters choose the foods that fit into their personalized daily point goal. The program also works because it encourages physical activity, and even allows for some additional “food points” when one participates in daily exercise.
The cost of the program is seen as a deterrent to some, however the plan “costs appreciably much less than specially-designed diabetes prevention programs,” according to study author Kathleen Melanson, PhD, RD, LD. It also costs less than many drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes. According to a study by the Stanford Prevention Research Center in 2008, the average cost of one diabetes drug prescription was around $76 per month.
Karen Miller-Kovach, RD, Chief Scientific Officer for Weight Watchers praises the study, saying that, "We're encouraged that the Weight Watchers program, already successful for helping millions of Americans lose weight, could also have the potential to reduce disease risk and even help reduce healthcare burden, for as little as about forty dollars per month, per person."
To learn more about Weight Watchers, visit www.weightwatchers.com.