Evidence-basis of Lifestyle Medicine


Every month, our e-newsletter provides links to some of the most recent research in Lifestyle Medicine, as well as Preventive Medicine and links to practice resources. Here are just a few highlights.

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Lifestyle Medicine Literature Review on the American College of Preventive Medicine Website
(link goes to PDF on the ACPM website)

The following presented by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Diabetes Prevention Program
The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was a major multicenter clinical research study aimed at discovering whether modest weight loss through dietary changes and increased physical activity or treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) could prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in study participants.

The following presented by MedPage Today

ADA: Type 2 Diabetics Can Alter Lifestyles
A short-term lifestyle modification program for overweight diabetic patients seen in clinical practice showed long-term benefits for many of the participants, researchers reported here.

Mediterranean Diet Helps Prevent, Slow Metabolic Syndrome
Patients who eat a Mediterranean diet -- rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil -- lowered prevalence and progression of metabolic syndrome and its components, according to results from a meta-analysis of 50 studies.

Fish Oil Has Benefits in Heart Failure
Supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids improved left ventricular function in patients with mild-to-moderate chronic heart failure due to dilated cardiomyopathy, a randomized, placebo-controlled trial showed. 

Increased Activity Helps in OA
Increasing physical activity over two years can improve function and even walking speed among adults with osteoarthritis of the knee -- regardless of their level of activity, a large prospective study found.

Lifestyle Intervention Helps Even Most Obese
Even the most severely obese adults derived important clinical benefits from a lifestyle intervention that combined dietary restriction with either six or 12 months of physical exercise, a yearlong randomized study showed.

Sleep Makes the Body Leaner
Diet and exercise are important factors in a healthy lifestyle, but a third factor -- sleep -- may be the real key to eliminating fat, according to a small study.

The following presented by Diabetes Health

Look AHEAD Study Examines Effect of Intensive Lifestyle Intervention on Type 2 Diabetes and Weight Loss
An intensive lifestyle intervention program designed with weight loss in mind improves diabetes control and cardiovascular disease risk factors in overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetes.

The following presented by Medline

Even a Little Weight Loss Helps Lower Blood Pressure in Obese Kids
For overweight children, losing just a little weight can significantly lower their blood pressure, according to researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine.

The following presented by Web MD

Eating Nuts Daily Lowers Cholesterol
Eating nuts on a daily basis improves blood cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, a new study says.

Kids' Lifestyle Changes Bring Later Heart Health
Encouraging children to make healthy lifestyle changes before they reach adulthood, including regular exercise and not smoking, can help lower the children's blood cholesterol levels and potentially reverse their risk of developing heart disease as they age.

The following presented by Medscape (login required)

Resistance Training Improves Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Resistance training reduces symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), compared with aerobic exercise or no exercise at all, according to research presented here at the American College of Sports Medicine 58th Annual Meeting.

Meditation Improves Mental Well-Being, Reduces Stress
Regular, long-term meditation significantly improves mental well-being, new research suggests.

Lifestyle Counseling in General Practice May Prevent Further Weight Gain
Lifestyle counseling by nurse practitioners (NPs) or general practitioners (GPs) leads to similarly effective prevention of further weight gain among overweight and obese patients, according to 3-year results of a randomized controlled trial reported in the February 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. 

Consistent Exercise Linked to Lower Risk for Death From Colon Cancer 
Add another study to the body of literature that says exercise is good for you, especially with regard to modifying cancer risk and outcomes.

Resistance Exercise May Lower Need for Insulin in GDM
Resistance exercise (RE) may lower the need for insulin in gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), according to the results of a randomized controlled trial reported online September 23 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Missed Opportunity? Exercise Benefits Sedentary Seniors But Does Not Reverse Cardiac Stiffening
Exercise cannot reverse the cardiac stiffening effect of years of sedentary behavior in people over 65, but it can improve arterial function and aerobic capacity and induce left-ventricular remodeling, results of a study published online October 18, 2010 in Circulation show.


The following articles are samples of the abundance of scientific evidence documenting effective lifestyle medicine treatment.


1. Appel LJ, et. al. A Clinical Trial of the Effects of Dietary Patterns on Blood Pressure. NEJM 1997;336:1117-24.

BACKGROUND: It is known that obesity, sodium intake, and alcohol consumption influence blood pressure. In this clinical trial, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, we assessed the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. METHODS We enrolled 459 adults with systolic blood pressures of less than 160 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressures of 80 to 95 mm Hg. For three weeks, the subjects were fed a control diet that was low in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, with a fat content typical of the average diet in the United States. They were then randomly assigned to receive for eight weeks the control diet, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, or a "combination" diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and with reduced saturated and total fat. Sodium intake and body weight were maintained at constant levels.

RESULTS: At base line, the mean (±SD) systolic and diastolic blood pressures were 131.3±10.8 mm Hg and 84.7±4.7 mm Hg, respectively. The combination diet reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 5.5 and 3.0 mm Hg more, respectively, than the control diet (P<0.001 for each); the fruits-and-vegetables diet reduced systolic blood pressure by 2.8 mm Hg more (P<0.001) and diastolic blood pressure by 1.1 mm Hg more (P = 0.07) than the control diet. Among the 133 subjects with hypertension (systolic pressure, >140 mm Hg; diastolic pressure, >90 mm Hg; or both), the combination diet reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 11.4 and 5.5 mm Hg more, respectively, than the control diet (P<0.001 for each); among the 326 subjects without hypertension, the corresponding reductions were 3.5 mm Hg (P<0.001) and 2.1 mm Hg (P = 0.003).

CONCLUSIONS: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and with reduced saturated and total fat can substantially lower blood pressure. This diet offers an additional nutritional approach to preventing and treating hypertension.

2. Obarzanek E, et. al. Effects on blood lipids of a blood pressure-lowering diet: the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2001 Jul;74(1):80-9.

BACKGROUND: Effects of diet on blood lipids are best known in white men, and effects of type of carbohydrate on triacylglycerol concentrations are not well defined.

OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to determine the effects of diet on plasma lipids, focusing on subgroups by sex, race, and baseline lipid concentrations.

DESIGN: This was a randomized controlled outpatient feeding trial conducted in 4 field centers. The subjects were 436 participants of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Trial [mean age: 44.6 y; 60% African American; baseline total cholesterol: 6.7 mmol/L (260 mg/dL)]. The intervention consisted of 8 wk of a control diet, a diet increased in fruit and vegetables, or a diet increased in fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and reduced in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol (DASH diet), during which time subjects remained weight stable. The main outcome measures were fasting total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triacylglycerol. RESULTS: Relative to the control diet, the DASH diet resulted in lower total (-0.35 mmol/L, or -13.7 mg/dL), LDL- (-0.28 mmol/L, or -10.7 mg/dL), and HDL- (-0.09 mmol/L, or -3.7 mg/dL) cholesterol concentrations (all P < 0.0001), without significant effects on triacylglycerol. The net reductions in total and LDL cholesterol in men were greater than those in women by 0.27 mmol/L, or 10.3 mg/dL (P = 0.052), and by 0.29 mmol/L, or 11.2 mg/dL (P < 0.02), respectively. Changes in lipids did not differ significantly by race or baseline lipid concentrations, except for HDL, which decreased more in participants with higher baseline HDL-cholesterol concentrations than in those with lower baseline HDL-cholesterol concentrations. The fruit and vegetable diet produced few significant lipid changes.

CONCLUSIONS: The DASH diet is likely to reduce coronary heart disease risk. The possible opposing effect on coronary heart disease risk of HDL reduction needs further study.

3. Moore TJ, et al. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is effective treatment for stage 1 isolated systolic hypertension. Hypertension 2001 Aug;38:155-8.

BACKGROUND: Use of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, significantly lowers blood pressure. PARTICIPANTS Among the 459 participants in the DASH Trial, 72 had stage 1 isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) (systolic blood pressure, 140 to 159 mm Hg; diastolic blood pressure, <90 mm Hg).

METHODS: We examined the blood pressure response in these 72 participants to determine whether the DASH diet is an effective treatment for stage 1 ISH. After a 3-week run-in period on a typical American (control) diet, participants were randomly assigned for 8 weeks to 1 of 3 diets: a continuation of the control diet (n=25), a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (n=24), or the DASH diet (n=23). Sodium content was the same in the 3 diets, and caloric intake was adjusted during the trial to prevent weight change. Blood pressure was measured at baseline and at the end of the 8-week intervention period with standard sphygmomanometry.

RESULTS: Use of the DASH diet significantly lowered systolic blood pressure compared with the control diet (-11.2 mm Hg; 95% confidence interval, -6.1 to -16.2 mm Hg; P<0.001) and the fruits/vegetables diet (-8.0 mm Hg; 95% confidence interval, -2.5 to -13.4 mm Hg; P<0.01). Overall, blood pressure in the DASH group fell from 146/85 to 134/82 mm Hg. Similar results were observed with 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure measurements. In the DASH diet group, 18 of 23 participants (78%) reduced their systolic blood pressure to <140 mm Hg, compared with 24% and 50% in the control and fruits/vegetables groups, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS Our results indicate that the DASH diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, is effective as first-line therapy in stage 1 ISH.

4. Appel LJ, et. al. Effects of comprehensive lifestyle modification on blood pressure control: main results of the PREMIER clinical trial. JAMA 2003 Apr 23/30;289(16):2083-93.

CONTEXT: Weight loss, sodium reduction, increased physical activity, and limited alcohol intake are established recommendations that reduce blood pressure (BP). The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet also lowers BP. To date, no trial has evaluated the effects of simultaneously implementing these lifestyle recommendations.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect on BP of 2 multicomponent, behavioral interventions.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Randomized trial with enrollment at 4 clinical centers (January 2000-June 2001) among 810 adults (mean [SD] age, 50 [8.9] years; 62% women; 34% African American) with above-optimal BP, including stage 1 hypertension (120-159 mm Hg systolic and 80-95 mm Hg diastolic), and who were not taking antihypertensive medications.

INTERVENTION: Participants were randomized to one of 3 intervention groups: (1) "established," a behavioral intervention that implemented established recommendations (n = 268); (2) "established plus DASH,"which also implemented the DASH diet (n = 269); and (3) an "advice only" comparison group (n = 273).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Blood pressure measurement and hypertension status at 6 months.

RESULTS: Both behavioral interventions significantly reduced weight, improved fitness, and lowered sodium intake. The established plus DASH intervention also increased fruit, vegetable, and dairy intake. Across the groups, gradients in BP and hypertensive status were evident. After subtracting change in advice only, the mean net reduction in systolic BP was 3.7 mm Hg (P<.001) in the established group and 4.3 mm Hg (P<.001) in the established plus DASH group; the systolic BP difference between the established and established plus DASH groups was 0.6 mm Hg (P =.43). Compared with the baseline hypertension prevalence of 38%, the prevalence at 6 months was 26% in the advice only group, 17% in the established group (P =.01 compared with the advice only group), and 12% in the established plus DASH group (P<.001 compared with the advice only group; P =.12 compared with the established group). The prevalence of optimal BP (<120 mm Hg systolic and <80 mm Hg diastolic) was 19% in the advice only group, 30% in the established group (P =.005 compared with the advice only group), and 35% in the established plus DASH group (P<.001 compared with the advice only group; P =.24 compared with the established group).

CONCLUSION: Individuals with above-optimal BP, including stage 1 hypertension, can make multiple lifestyle changes that lower BP and reduce their cardiovascular disease risk.

5. Jenkins DJ, et. al. Effects of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods vs Lovastatin on serum lipids and C-reactive protein. JAMA 2003 Jul 23/30;290(4):502-10.

CONTEXT: To enhance the effectiveness of diet in lowering cholesterol, recommendations of the Adult Treatment Panel III of the National Cholesterol Education Program emphasize diets low in saturated fat together with plant sterols and viscous fibers, and the American Heart Association supports the use of soy protein and nuts.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether a diet containing all of these recommended food components leads to cholesterol reduction comparable with that of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins). DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial conducted between October and December 2002.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Forty-six healthy, hyperlipidemic adults (25 men and 21 postmenopausal women) with a mean (SE) age of 59 (1) years and body mass index of 27.6 (0.5), recruited from a Canadian hospital-affiliated nutrition research center and the community.

INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomly assigned to undergo 1 of 3 interventions on an outpatient basis for 1 month: a diet very low in saturated fat, based on milled whole-wheat cereals and low-fat dairy foods (n = 16; control); the same diet plus lovastatin, 20 mg/d (n = 14); or a diet high in plant sterols (1.0 g/1000 kcal), soy protein (21.4 g/1000 kcal), viscous fibers (9.8 g/1000 kcal), and almonds (14 g/1000 kcal) (n = 16; dietary portfolio).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Lipid and C-reactive protein levels, obtained from fasting blood samples; blood pressure; and body weight; measured at weeks 0, 2, and 4 and compared among the 3 treatment groups.

RESULTS: The control, statin, and dietary portfolio groups had mean (SE) decreases in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol of 8.0% (2.1%) (P =.002), 30.9% (3.6%) (P<.001), and 28.6% (3.2%) (P<.001), respectively. Respective reductions in C-reactive protein were 10.0% (8.6%) (P =.27), 33.3% (8.3%) (P =.002), and 28.2% (10.8%) (P =.02). The significant reductions in the statin and dietary portfolio groups were all significantly different from changes in the control group. There were no significant differences in efficacy between the statin and dietary portfolio treatments.

CONCLUSION: In this study, diversifying cholesterol-lowering components in the same dietary portfolio increased the effectiveness of diet as a treatment of hypercholesterolemia.

6. de Lorgeril, et al. Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: final report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study. Circulation 1999 Feb;99(6):779-85.

BACKGROUND: The Lyon Diet Heart Study is a randomized secondary prevention trial aimed at testing whether a Mediterranean-type diet may reduce the rate of recurrence after a first myocardial infarction. An intermediate analysis showed a striking protective effect after 27 months of follow-up. This report presents results of an extended follow-up (with a mean of 46 months per patient) and deals with the relationships of dietary patterns and traditional risk factors with recurrence.

METHODS & RESULTS: Three composite outcomes (COs) combining either cardiac death and nonfatal myocardial infarction (CO 1), or the preceding plus major secondary end points (unstable angina, stroke, heart failure, pulmonary or peripheral embolism) (CO 2), or the preceding plus minor events requiring hospital admission (CO 3) were studied. In the Mediterranean diet group, CO 1 was reduced (14 events versus 44 in the prudent Western-type diet group, P=0.0001), as were CO 2 (27 events versus 90, P=0.0001) and CO 3 (95 events versus 180, P=0.0002). Adjusted risk ratios ranged from 0.28 to 0.53. Among the traditional risk factors, total cholesterol (1 mmol/L being associated with an increased risk of 18% to 28%), systolic blood pressure (1 mm Hg being associated with an increased risk of 1% to 2%), leukocyte count (adjusted risk ratios ranging from 1.64 to 2.86 with count >9x109/L), female sex (adjusted risk ratios, 0.27 to 0.46), and aspirin use (adjusted risk ratios, 0.59 to 0.82) were each significantly and independently associated with recurrence.

CONCLUSIONS: The protective effect of the Mediterranean dietary pattern was maintained up to 4 years after the first infarction, confirming previous intermediate analyses. Major traditional risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and blood pressure, were shown to be independent and joint predictors of recurrence, indicating that the Mediterranean dietary pattern did not alter, at least qualitatively, the usual relationships between major risk factors and recurrence. Thus, a comprehensive strategy to decrease cardiovascular morbidity and mortality should include primarily a cardioprotective diet. It should be associated with other (pharmacological?) means aimed at reducing modifiable risk factors. Further trials combining the 2 approaches are warranted.

7. Ornish D, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA 1998 Dec 16;280(23):2001-7.

CONTEXT: The Lifestyle Heart Trial demonstrated that intensive lifestyle changes may lead to regression of coronary atherosclerosis after 1 year. OBJECTIVES: To determine the feasibility of patients to sustain intensive lifestyle changes for a total of 5 years and the effects of these lifestyle changes (without lipid-lowering drugs) on coronary heart disease.

DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial conducted from 1986 to 1992 using a randomized invitational design. PATIENTS: Forty-eight patients with moderate to severe coronary heart disease were randomized to an intensive lifestyle change group or to a usual-care control group, and 35 completed the 5-year follow-up quantitative coronary arteriography.

SETTING: Two tertiary care university medical centers.

INTERVENTION: Intensive lifestyle changes (10% fat whole foods vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise, stress management training, smoking cessation, group psychosocial support) for 5 years.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Adherence to intensive lifestyle changes, changes in coronary artery percent diameter stenosis, and cardiac events.

RESULTS: Experimental group patients (20 [71%] of 28 patients completed 5-year follow-up) made and maintained comprehensive lifestyle changes for 5 years, whereas control group patients (15 [75%] of 20 patients completed 5-year follow-up) made more moderate changes. In the experimental group, the average percent diameter stenosis at baseline decreased 1.75 absolute percentage points after 1 year (a 4.5% relative improvement) and by 3.1 absolute percentage points after 5 years (a 7.9% relative improvement). In contrast, the average percent diameter stenosis in the control group increased by 2.3 percentage points after 1 year (a 5.4% relative worsening) and by 11.8 percentage points after 5 years (a 27.7% relative worsening) (P=.001 between groups. Twenty-five cardiac events occurred in 28 experimental group patients vs 45 events in 20 control group patients during the 5-year follow-up (risk ratio for any event for the control group, 2.47 [95% confidence interval, 1.48-4.20]).

CONCLUSIONS: More regression of coronary atherosclerosis occurred after 5 years than after 1 year in the experimental group. In contrast, in the control group, coronary atherosclerosis continued to progress and more than twice as many cardiac events occurred.

8. Ornish D, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet 1990 Jul 21;336(8708):129-33.

DESIGN: In a prospective, randomised, controlled trial to determine whether comprehensive lifestyle changes affect coronary atherosclerosis after 1 year, 28 patients were assigned to an experimental group (low-fat vegetarian diet, stopping smoking, stress management training, and moderate exercise) and 20 to a usual-care control group.

METHODS: 195 coronary artery lesions were analysed by quantitative coronary angiography.

RESULTS: The average percentage diameter stenosis regressed from 40.0 (SD 16.9)% to 37.8 (16.5)% in the experimental group yet progressed from 42.7 (15.5)% to 46.1 (18.5)% in the control group. When only lesions greater than 50% stenosed were analysed, the average percentage diameter stenosis regressed from 61.1 (8.8)% to 55.8 (11.0)% in the experimental group and progressed from 61.7 (9.5)% to 64.4 (16.3)% in the control group. Overall, 82% of experimental-group patients had an average change towards regression.

CONCLUSIONS: Comprehensive lifestyle changes may be able to bring about regression of even severe coronary atherosclerosis after only 1 year, without use of lipid-lowering drugs.

9. Koertge J, et al. Improvement in medical risk factors and quality of life in women and men with coronary artery disease in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. Am J Cardiol. 2003 Jun 1;91(11):1316-22.

This study examined medical and psychosocial characteristics of 440 patients (mean age 58 years, 21% women) with coronary artery disease at baseline and at 3-month and 12-month follow-ups. All patients were participants in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project, aimed at improving diet (low fat, whole foods, plant-based), exercise, stress management, and social support. Spousal participation was encouraged. Both genders evidenced significant improvements in their diet, exercise, and stress management practices, which they maintained over the course of the study. Both women and men also showed significant medical (e.g., plasma lipids, blood pressure, body weight, exercise capacity) and psychosocial (e.g., quality of life) improvement. Despite their worse medical, psychosocial, and sociodemographic status at baseline, women's improvement was similar to that of men's. These results demonstrate that a multi-component lifestyle change program focusing on diet, exercise, stress management, and social support can be successfully implemented at hospitals in diverse regions of the United States. Furthermore, this program may be particularly beneficial for women with coronary artery disease who generally have higher mortality and morbidity than men after a heart attack, angioplasty, or bypass surgery.