Food for Thought

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Watch out for Weight Creep. 
Struggling to zip up your favourite jeans? Join the ever-expanding Weight Creep Club. For most people, weight gain isn’t a sudden event. It is very gradual. From our mid-to-late twenties, most of us notice the numbers on the scale edging up, typically around a pound or 450 grams a year. A pound doesn’t sound like anything to be too concerned about. But the pounds add up. Suddenly it’s 10 years on and you’re 10 pounds (about 4 kilograms) heavier thanks the weight-creepy combo of aging, a sedentary lifestyle, no time for exercise, too much stress and too little sleep, accompanied by a healthy appetite to power you through your busy day.

Despite our fast-paced lives with work, family and social commitments, the pace inside us slows down with the passing decades – our metabolic rate slows and we start to lose our metabolically active (i.e. calorie-crunching) lean muscle mass. This is when we start gaining weight and increasing our risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and some cancers (breast and bowel). So, 10 pounds is something to be concerned about.

Carrying extra body fat around the waist tends to go hand in hand with type 2 diabetes. Like weight creep, it doesn’t happen overnight. Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they have pre-diabetes – blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Pre-diabetes has no clear symptoms. It just creeps up as weight creeps up. Left untreated, it can develop into type 2 diabetes along with the risk of complications associated with diabetes such as heart attacks and stroke. The good news is that clinical trials have shown that three out of five people with pre-diabetes can avoid type 2 diabetes by improving their diet, becoming more active and losing a bit of weight. But this isn’t a quick, “all-better-now” fix. It’s ongoing. Staying motivated and keeping the weight off matters to keep diabetes at bay. Regaining lost weight through weight creep is very common among people with pre-diabetes.

Modestly increasing protein content and modestly reducing overall dietary GI helped overweight men and women, who had undergone recent major weight loss, to maintain their lower weight, was the key finding of the landmark Diogenes Study.  The researchers reported that both lower GI diets and higher-protein diets were equally effective in preventing weight regain. But that people in the group which combined both lower GI and higher-protein strategies continued to lose weight over the 26 weeks of the study.

This original Diogenes study was just six months. Now the researchers are looking longer term with the 3-year international PREVIEW Study. “Its primary goal is to identify the most efficient lifestyle intervention pattern for preventing type 2 diabetes in people who are pre-diabetic overweight or obese (i.e. at high risk),” says Prof Jennie Brand-Miller. “The aim of this study is to find out the best methods (which diet, which exercise strategy and behavioural modification) of maintaining weight loss and keeping type 2 diabetes at bay. Volunteers for this study will have their own team of professionals dedicated to their weight loss and weight loss maintenance, all free of charge.”

The University of Sydney, one of eight sites around the world taking part in the study, is recruiting participants now. If you are interested in taking part, see below for details for applying or for finding out more about it.

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