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Novel study examines role of obesity and diabetes in heart disease

Houston, TX - 6/28/2007

A $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will help researchers at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center identify how weight loss and lifestyle changes affect the risk for heart disease in obese and diabetic patients, a rapidly-growing group in America.

Although diet, exercise and weight loss are recommended by many national organizations, no clinical trials have shown a significant reduction in cardiovascular events due specifically to weight loss.

“We are finding that inflammation of the fat tissue causes both diabetes and heart attacks,” said Dr. Christie Ballantyne, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center. “This study will examine how diet, exercise and weight loss affect inflammation, and how these changes affect the health of the patient’s heart.”

The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study is a large multi-center trial designed to examine whether weight loss through intensive lifestyle intervention with diet and exercise will reduce cardiovascular events in obese diabetic individuals compared with a control group that receives diabetes support and education.

As part of the Look AHEAD study, researchers nationwide will follow 5,000 people who are overweight and have diabetes -- both conditions that lead to inflammation of fatty tissue. All patients will be educated in how to change certain lifestyle habits, adding diet or exercise to their daily routines.

“We are looking at how each intervention works for each person, how diet or exercise affect the fat tissue,” said Ballantyne, who is principal investigator for the study at Methodist. “That will then show us how these interventions affect the heart.”

Previous studies showed that as people lost weight and maintained the loss, there was a decrease in inflammation.

“These findings will lead to better ways of treating people at risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.” Ballantyne said.

For more information on the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center, see www.debakeyheartcenter.com.

Study details – This research has the following goals:

1. Examine the association between measurements of obesity (weight, body mass index, waist circumference) at baseline and levels of proinflammatory (IL-6, CRP) and anti-inflammatory (adiponectin isoforms) adipocytokines and parameters of impaired coagulant balance (PAI-1, fibrinogen, D-dimer, TAFI) in 50% of patients enrolled in the Look AHEAD trial and how this relationship is influenced by dietary intake, physical activity, fitness, gender, ethnicity and presence of cardiovascular risk factors and disease.

2. Compare the effects of intense lifestyle modification (ILM) versus diabetes support and education (DSE) on changes in inflammatory markers and impaired coagulant balance between baseline and year one, and examine how changes are related to changes in adiposity, dietary intake, fitness and physical activity.