Adults with prediabetes of normal weight may derive at least as much benefit from lifestyle health coaching programs as adults who are overweight or obese, results of a recent nonrandomized, real-world study show.
Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) normalized in about 63% of prediabetic adults with normal body mass index (BMI) participating in a personalized coaching program that emphasized exercise, nutrition, and weight management, according to researcher Mandy Salmon, MS.
By contrast, FPG normalized in about 52% of overweight and 44% of obese prediabetic individuals participating in the program, according to Ms. Salmon, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
The normal-weight individuals didn’t lose any weight after participating in the coaching program, but they did significantly increase exercise, as did their overweight and obese counterparts, Ms. Salmon said in a presentation of her findings at virtual annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association.
That means not only that normal-weight individuals shouldn’t be excluded from coaching interventions for diabetes prevention, but also that the success of such programs shouldn’t be judged solely on the magnitude of weight loss, according to the researcher.
“It is interesting to note that, although the normal weight group lost the least amount of weight, they still benefited from the lifestyle health coaching program, but having a resultant greatest decrease in fasting plasma glucose and normalization to a range of someone without prediabetes,” Ms. Salmon said.
The fact that most of those patients experienced normalization of FPG despite no weight loss emphasizes the importance of physical activity as a lifestyle intervention, according to, medical director of Penn Rodebaugh Diabetes Center in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study.
“You hear these axioms that say things like, ‘you can never outexercise a bad diet,’ and that’s probably true. But all the studies will tell us that a fit, overweight diabetic has much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than an unfit overweight diabetic,” Dr. Schutta said in an interview.
Benefits in normal-weight individuals
One in three Americans has prediabetes, and of those individuals, one in five have a normal BMI, Ms. Salmon said in her virtual ADA presentation.
It’s thought that diabetes may develop in those normal-weight individuals through different pathological mechanisms than in overweight or obese individuals. In turn, that could mean that standard methods for staving off diabetes prevention may not be as effective for them, she said.
Those mechanisms are not well understood; even so, normal BMI is currently an exclusion criterion for many diabetes prevention programs, she added, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, which specificallythat individuals have an elevated BMI to be eligible for referral.
To evaluate the potential benefits of coaching in normal-weight individuals, the investigators studied a cohort of 1,897 adults with prediabetes, defined as a baseline FPG of 100-125 mg/dL, who were participating in a lifestyle health coaching program. Of those participants, 188, or about 10% had a normal BMI of 18.5-24.9 mg/m2. Another 495 participants were overweight, with BMIs between 25 and 29.9, while 1,214 were obese, with a BMI of at least 30.
The intervention included an initial assessment to generate goals and a personalized action plan based on the individual’s risk factors, according to Ms. Salmon, along with an action plan that included one-on-one, behaviorally oriented, technology-enabled lifestyle health coaching focused on exercise and physical activity, weight management, and nutrition.