Folks who drop pounds to help control their diabetes receive other substantial heath benefits for all their efforts, a new study says.

Substantial weight loss that led to even a short-lived remission in type 2 diabetes also prompted a 40% lower rate in heart disease and a 33% lower rate of kidney disease, researchers report in the Jan. 18 issue of the journal Diabetologia.

“As the first intervention study to associate remission with reduction of diabetes-related complications, this is encouraging news for those who can achieve remission from type 2 diabetes,” said lead researcher Edward Gregg, head of population health at RSCI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin.

For the study, researchers tracked 5,145 overweight or obese adults with type 2 diabetes for 12 years.

About 18% of patients randomly assigned to an intensive diet and lifestyle plan wound up controlling their diabetes to the point they needed no medication and had normal blood sugar levels, which researchers considered remission.

Those patients had lower rates of heart and kidney disease than those who didn’t achieve remission, researchers found.

Further, the risk of heart or kidney disease declined most in people with longer-term remission.

Those who experienced at least four years of remission had a 49% reduced risk of heart disease and a 55% reduced risk of kidney disease.

Patients were more likely to go into remission if they hadn’t had diabetes for long, had more control over their blood sugar and experienced a large magnitude of weight loss, researchers said.

It’s not easy to remain in remission. Only 3% of patients were still in remission by the eighth year of the study, researchers noted.

But even short-lived episodes of remission were associated with lower rates of heart and kidney disease, compared with patients who never achieved remission.

“While our study is also a reminder that maintenance of weight loss and remission is difficult, our findings suggests any success with remission is associated with later health benefits,” Gregg said in a university news release.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more on diabetes and weight loss.

SOURCE: RSCI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, news release, Jan. 18, 2024