Dieting

Weight Loss in Overweight Women Reduces Urinary Incontinence

| by National Institutes of Health

-- Urinary Incontinence affects more than 13 million women in U.S.
-- Accounts for more than $20 billion in annual health care costs

Reducing urinary incontinence can now be added to the extensive list of health benefits of weight loss, according to a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The paper reporting the results of the trial were published in the January 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study -- conducted in Birmingham, Ala. and Providence. R.I. -- recruited a total of 338 obese and overweight women who leaked urine at least 10 times per week. The women were randomly assigned to either an intensive six-month weight-loss program of diet, exercise and behavior modification or to a group that received information about diet and exercise, but no training to help them change habits.

The investigators report that women in the intensive weight-loss group lost an average 8 percent of their body weight (about 17 pounds) and reduced weekly urinary incontinence episodes by nearly one-half (47 percent). In contrast, women in the information-only group lost an average 1.6 percent of body weight (about 3 pounds) and had 28 percent fewer episodes.

“Clearly, weight loss can have a significant, positive impact on urinary incontinence, a finding that may help motivate weight loss, which has additional health benefits such as preventing type 2 diabetes,” said Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a part of NIH.

Urinary incontinence affects more than 13 million women in the United States and accounts for an estimated $20 billion in annual health care costs, according to the paper. Obesity is an established and modifiable risk factor for urinary incontinence, but conclusive evidence for a beneficial effect of weight loss on urinary incontinence has been lacking. This trial provides evidence supporting weight loss as a treatment for incontinence.

Among women in the weight-loss group, 41 percent achieved a reduction of at least 70 percent of total incontinence episodes per week, whereas 22 percent of women in the information-only group achieved the same level of reduction.

At six months, women in the weight-loss group were significantly more satisfied with the change in their incontinence than were women in the information-only group.

“Studies have documented that behavioral interventions help people lose weight, which helps decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, improve control of high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and enhance mood and quality of life,” said Leslee L. Subak, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and lead author of the study. “Our results suggest that a decrease in urinary incontinence is another health benefit associated with weight loss and that weight reduction can be a first-line treatment in overweight and obese women.”

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