Small Lifestyle Chances Reduce Metabolic Syndrome by 15%

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Making some simple dietary changes, losing a few pounds and adding a little light exercise to your daily routine can significantly lower your risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. So says a new Finnish study that found even small lifestyle changes helped reduce abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome — the cluster of risk factors including waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels — by as much as 15%.

Publishing their findings in the journal Diabetes Care, Pirjo llanne-Parikka, MD, of the Finnish Diabetes Association and colleagues performed a secondary analysis of the ongoing Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study. They looked at data on 522 overweight men and women, average age 55 at the start of the study, who also showed impaired glucose tolerance — indicating an increased risk for diabetes.

Half of the study's participants received regular, individualized advice designed to help them reduce their weight by at least 5%-through increasing their intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy and meats. They also were counseled to spend at least 30 minutes a day in light exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics and/or weight training.

The other participants were given written and oral advice about diet and exercise at the start of the study and at their annual check-ups only.

The subjects were followed for an average of nearly four years. The men and women who received the more rigorous individualized counseling and follow-up reduced their abdominal fat and metabolic-syndrome occurrence by 15%, an especially promising result among a population already overweight and showing signs of elevated diabetes risk.

Those who received just general diet and exercise advice, however, did not reduce their flab at all, and decreased their rate of metabolic syndrome by just 4%.

Although the study group emphasized those at risk for diabetes, Dr. llanne-Parikka added, "The results suggest that lifestyle intervention may also reduce risk of cardiovascular disease in the long run."

Not only did the difference in the two groups' results give evidence of the power of making even small lifestyle changes, the researchers said, but the results also highlight the importance of "individual, patient-centered counseling and regular follow-up."

TO LEARN MORE: Diabetes Care, April 2008; abstract at .

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