Diabetes Forecast

Weight Loss Efforts Lower Health Care Costs

What to Know

People with diabetes who are overweight or obese have high health care costs, and their numbers are on the rise. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help improve health, but do such lifestyle changes also bring down the cost of care over the long term? This study sought to answer that question.

The Study

A total of 5,121 American adults with type 2 diabetes joined in the 10-year study. They were 45 to 76 years old and either overweight or obese. Each participant was placed in a lifestyle change program for weight loss or a diabetes education program. The lifestyle group received healthy eating and exercise goals, six months of weekly classes, and ongoing though less frequent classes after that. Those in the education group attended self-care classes three times per year for the first 4 years and once per year after that. Researchers tracked and compared each groups’ use of health care services and its cost.

The Results

People in the lifestyle program had fewer hospital stays and took fewer medicines than those in the education program. Their costs were also lower: 10% less for hospital stays and 7% less for medicines. On average, their health care costs were $5,280 less than those in the education group. However, these savings did not occur for people who had heart disease.


Participating in an intensive lifestyle change program can reduce the number of hospital stays and needed medicines and lower health care costs for overweight people with diabetes. Future reports from this study will look at whether these benefits outweigh the costs of such a program. The study results may only apply to people who receive regular care, and some of the health information collected from the participants could have been inaccurate, which would affect the results of the study.

Impact of an intensive lifestyle intervention on use and cost of medical services among overweight and obese adults with type 2 diabetes: the Action for Health in Diabetes study, by Mark A. Espeland and colleagues, for the Look AHEAD Research Group. Diabetes Care 2014;37:2548-2556 https://doi.org/10.2337/dc14-0093

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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