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Weight Loss Cuts Heart Disease, Diabetes Risk in Middle-Aged Women

Update Date: Dec 18, 2013 07:23 PM EST

Losing even a little weight can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes in middle-aged women.

A new study of 417 women participating in weight loss programs for up to 24 months revealed that those who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight and kept the weight off reduced their total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, glucose and inflammation markers. The participants were on average 44 years old and weight nearly 200 pounds at the start of the study.

Researchers noted that those with the highest levels of risk at the start of the study reaped the most benefits from modest weight loss.

"It is challenging to lose weight, but if women commit to losing 10 percent of their body weight and sustain that over time, it can have a large impact on overall risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes," Cynthia A. Thomson, Ph.D., R.D., co-author and Professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and Director of the University of Arizona Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention & Health Promotion in Tucson, said in a news release.

Many middle-aged women find themselves weighing a lot more in their forties than in their younger years because of sedentary jobs, repeated pregnancy and the transition to menopause. While women in short-term weight loss programs usually do better with weight loss in the first six months, they have a high risk of gaining back the weight they lost.

"Our study revealed the need for healthcare providers to provide women with longer-term support for weight control. It seems to pay off in terms of modifying risk factors for obesity-related disease," Thomson said.

"The good news is that when you lose weight long-term, you just don't move to a smaller dress size, you are actually moving these risk factors markedly and likely reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes," Thomson concluded.

The latest study was funded by Jenny Craig, Inc. 

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