Twelve area residents are 53 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes after completing the first portion of a diabetes prevention study for the Centers for Disease Control through Good Shepherd Medical Center.
A total of 19 people signed up for the National Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Intervention study at GSMC, which began in October. To participate, people had to have a body mass index of at least 24 and could not have developed full-blown diabetes.
Through the program, participants attended weekly classes for the first 16 weeks, where they were weighed during each session. They also listened to and discussed presentations on a range of topics, from healthy eating to stress management to exercise. They were also encouraged to exercise for at least 150 minutes during the week and turn in their weekly meal plans documenting what they planned to eat that week.
Now that those 16 weekly classes have finished, ending in February, the group will now attend monthly classes.
The goal for the study, GSMC registered dietitian Nancy Gummer said, is for those people to lose 7 percent of their body fat by the end of the year-long program, which would decrease their chances of developing diabetes by 53 percent. In just 16 weeks, however, they have nearly reached their goal. Of the 12 individuals remaining in the program after 16 weeks, the average of weight lost is 6.8 percent.
“It’s gone really well,” GSMC dietitian Cassandra Zabel said. “Of those participating in the program, 100 percent of them lost weight.”
Zabel said, even though the program required 150 minutes of exercise, organizers discovered participants have gone above and beyond that, recording an average of 179 minutes of physical activity per week.
Gummer said she feels the program is so successful because it allows people to decide what kind of exercise and eating choices work best for them. She said the program encouraged any physical activity, rather than prescribing a certain kind. The same went for meal planning.
Zabel said not only are the participants feeling healthier, they are being encouraged to maintain their health routine.
“This helps keep them motivated,” she said. “Most of them didn’t realize how much of an impact their lifestyle made on their health.”
Gummer said some of the participants made large changes that, in return, had large impacts on their health. Others, she said, made small changes that made large differences as well.
“They were able to explore and find out what worked best for them,” she said. “For many, it worked really well.”
Gummer said participants’ choices in exercise ranged from walking daily to lifting weights to conducting extra chores at home, with the goal of adding exercise to their day.
“Some people really started enjoying exercising, while others still do it because they need to,” she said. “The program allows people to find the changes that work for them that will last. That has made the biggest impact.”
Throughout the last 16 weeks, Zabel and Gummer have submitted their results from the study to the Centers for Disease Control, which they will continue to do for the rest of the year-long study. The CDC will then use the results to demonstrate how prevention through lifestyle changes is more important than treatment after an person has already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The overarching goal, Gummer said, is to get health insurance companies to place more of an emphasis on prevention.
“There was a huge study done that compared lifestyle to medication,” she said. “What they found is that a person’s lifestyle is more effective than medication in prevention.”
Gummer said the GSMC study was the first one in the state, and possibly even in the nation, to be conducted in a rural area.
“It has been better than what we expected,” Zabel said. “Our hope was that people would lose weight and cut their chances of getting diabetes. By week 16, we’ve already met our goal. It really works.”
Recently, other studies have started up for the effort and are running concurrently with the GSMC study that began in October, including an additional study at Good Shepherd. People interested in participating in a future study should visit http://www.ccno.org. The website lists program start dates for areas in which the study will take place.