Weight Change During the Postintervention Follow-up of Look AHEAD

Diabetes Care. 2022 Apr 14;45(6):1306-1314. doi: 10.2337/dc21-1990. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Patients with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to lose weight, but excessive weight loss in older adults may be a marker of poor health and subsequent mortality. We examined weight change during the postintervention period of Look AHEAD, a randomized trial comparing intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) with diabetes support and education (DSE) (control) in overweight/obese individuals with type 2 diabetes and sought to identify predictors of excessive postintervention weight loss and its association with mortality.

Research design and methods: These secondary analyses compared postintervention weight change (year 8 to final visit; median 16 years) in ILI and DSE in 3,999 Look AHEAD participants. Using empirically derived trajectory categories, we compared four subgroups: weight gainers (n = 307), weight stable (n = 1,561), steady losers (n = 1,731), and steep losers (n = 380), on postintervention mortality, demographic variables, and health status at randomization and year 8.

Results: Postintervention weight change averaged -3.7 ± 9.5%, with greater weight loss in the DSE than the ILI group. The steep weight loss trajectory subgroup lost on average 17.7 ± 6.6%; 30% of steep losers died during postintervention follow-up versus 10-18% in other trajectories (P < 0001). The following variables distinguished steep losers from weight stable: baseline, older, longer diabetes duration, higher BMI, and greater multimorbidity; intervention, randomization to control group and less weight loss in years 1-8; and year 8, higher prevalence of frailty, multimorbidity, and depressive symptoms and lower use of weight control strategies.

Conclusions: Steep weight loss postintervention was associated with increased risk of mortality. Older individuals with longer duration of diabetes and multimorbidity should be monitored for excessive unintentional weight loss.