NIH-funded Look AHEAD Study Produced Important Data, Though Not Its Main Focus.
Memphis, Tenn. (October 19, 2012) – An intervention study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of Tennessee Health
Science Center (UTHSC) has been cut short but still yielded important data. The study, targeted at determining cardiovascular benefits of weight loss
in people with Type 2 diabetes, started in 1999 and was scheduled to run through 2014.
The original goal was to find a direct correlation between weight loss and its effects preventing heart attack and strokes in people with long-standing
Type 2 diabetes. The NIH discontinued the study early because this correlation could not be shown; however, study participants realized weight loss
that resulted in other significant health benefits — lower blood pressure, decreased blood sugar and reductions in cholesterol. Called Look AHEAD
(Action for Health in Diabetes), the study included 5,145 people in 16 health centers across the United States. Half of all participants received
intensive lifestyle intervention, while the other half followed a general program of diabetes support and education. More than 330 participants
enrolled in the study through the UTHSC Department of Preventive Medicine with Karen C. Johnson, MD, MPH, and through the Division of Endocrinology
with Abbas Kitabchi, MD, PhD, in Memphis.
“Even though the intervention didn’t reduce cardiovascular events, Look AHEAD showed other important health benefits,” explained Dr. Johnson, who was
one of two primary investigators in the study at UTHSC. “People who received the intervention had an improved quality of life. Some people in the study
needed less diabetes medication, and decreased sleep apnea, and the weight loss helped almost all of them maintain mobility.”
Few, if any, studies of this size and duration have had comparable success in achieving and maintaining weight loss. Participants in the intervention
group lost an average of more than 8 percent of their initial body weight after one year of intervention. They maintained an average weight loss of
nearly 5 percent of their body weight after four years, an amount of weight loss that experts recommend to improve health, while the other group,
without the intervention, lost 1 percent of their body weight.
“The intervention group did not have fewer cardiovascular events than the group receiving general diabetes support and education, but one positive
factor we saw was that both groups had a low number of cardiovascular events compared to previous studies of people with diabetes,” said Mary Evans,
PhD director of Special Projects in Nutrition, Obesity, and Digestive Diseases within the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases (NIDDK), the study’s primary sponsor.
Though officials at NIDDK recommended stopping the intensive lifestyle intervention because they felt there was little chance of finding a difference
in cardiovascular events between the groups, investigators were encouraged to continue following all Look AHEAD participants to identify longer-term
effects of the intervention. Data is currently being analyzed to fully understand the cardiovascular disease results. Investigators are preparing a
report of the findings for a peer-reviewed publication.
In addition to the NIDDK, other NIH support for Look AHEAD comes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Nursing
Research; the Office of Research on Women’s Health; and the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities. The Indian Health Service and
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provided support.
Find more information about the Look AHEAD trial (NCT00017953), including a list of current publications, visit www.lookaheadtrial.org. For a list of centers enrolling patients for diabetes or obesity trials, search
for keywords “diabetes” or “obesity” at www.clinicaltrials.gov.
As the flagship statewide academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is to bring
the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region, by
pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service. Offering a broad range of postgraduate and selected
baccalaureate training opportunities, the main UTHSC campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry,
Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC also educates and trains cohorts of medicine, pharmacy and/or allied health students —
in addition to medical residents and fellows — at its major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. Founded in 1911, during its more than 100
years, UT Health Science Center has educated and trained more than 53,000 health care professionals in academic settings and health care facilities
across the state. For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.