1. O'Shaughnessy, Patrice


A successful weight loss program in Rhode Island.


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Ronnie Newman was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes more than 10 years ago, just as a team of medical professionals at Brown University launched the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study of 5,145 men and women nationwide to assess the long-term effects of weight loss on people with the chronic illness. Researchers have been monitoring the participants, who were enrolled when they were between the ages of 45 and 74 and were randomly assigned to a program of intensive lifestyle intervention (focusing on weight reduction through "moderately intense activity") or to a control group of diabetes education and support.


"I was one of the first people to respond to the ad looking for people for the study," said Newman, 63, of Rhode Island. She'd always had a weight problem, but through the program of intensive lifestyle change, she lost about 20 pounds and has kept most of it off for a decade by reading every food label, giving up soda, controlling the amounts she eats, and exercising regularly. "We all agreed that without this support we'd never have been able to do what we've done," she said. "My diabetes hasn't progressed as quickly as it could have. I feel 100% better than when I started. If it weren't for this study, I'd either be dead-or a very sick person."


Rena Wing, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown and codirector of Look AHEAD, said that during the first year of the study (which is planned to end in 2012), those in the intensive program lost 8.6% of their starting body weight-about 19 lbs.-compared with 1.5 lbs. among those in the less intensive program. Exercise was the strongest reason for weight loss, followed by program attendance and meal replacements, according to analysis of the first year.


"The people who did the best were those who exercised the most and came to meetings," said Wing. "The intensive program greatly improved fitness levels, blood pressure, and lipid levels."


Newman attends meetings at Miriam Hospital in Providence, where Wing is based. "I'm a mother and a grandmother," Newman said, "and this study is for the next generation, who will be prone to type 2 diabetes because of a lack of activity and proper diet." For more information on the Looking AHEAD study, go to O'Shaughnessy