A new study shows that reducing weight through dieting and exercise can help overweight people with type 2 diabetes to reduce their health-related costs by at least $500 a year on average.

Researchers have already suspected that diet and exercise play a strong role in diabetes prevention. A 2007 study, for example, found that adopting a vegan diet reversed diabetes symptoms in 43 percent of patients studied compared to 26 percent of patients who adopted the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. However, this new study gives people a financial incentive to make a change to their diet and exercise: by eating less and being more active, folks can save on average $500 a year. This study is good news for those with Type 2 diabetes who want to have shorter hospital stays and save money.

"Lifestyle interventions promoting weight loss and physical activity are recommended for overweight and obese people with Type 2 diabetes to improve their health," said Mark A. Espeland, the lead author of the study.

Espeland is a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This paper was published August 21 in the journal Diabetes Care.

The research study consisted of 5,121 obese and overweight people with Type 2 diabetes. The participants were all between 45 and 76 years old and had participated in the National Institute of Health's Action for Health in Diabetes study starting in 2001. Half of the group was assigned randomly to intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI), and the other half was assigned to diabetes support and education (DSE) programs. The participants were tracked for eleven years, through to 2012.

The study found that participants in the ILI group were able to have 11 percent fewer hospitalizations than participants in the DSE group. When participants in the ILI group were hospitalized, they stayed for 15 percent shorter on average than those in the DSE group. Those in the ILI group were also able to take less prescription medication on average. The study found that over the course of 10 years, the participants who were in the program focusing on increased exercise and diet improvement were able to save $5,280 each in health care over 10 years, or about $528 per year on average.

Those in the ILI program also were able to better control their diabetes through weight loss and staying physically active. Espeland said that the cost benefits were about the same for everyone in the ILI group no matter what their age, gender, starting weight or ethnicity was.

"Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that is affecting more and more adults, increasing their health care needs and costs," Espeland said.

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