Modification of the Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Intervention in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury: Efficacy for Reducing Major Cardiometabolic Risks, Increased Fitness, and Improved Health-Related Quality of Life

Author(s): Gregory E. Bigford, Doug A. Lehmann, Luisa F. Betancourt, Jennifer L. Maher, Armando J. Mendez, Mark S Nash

Individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) face elevated risks of cardiometabolic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, due to factors like physical inactivity, neurogenic obesity, and disrupted glucose and insulin regulation. We conducted a prospective intervention cohort study involving 20 individuals with SCI (aged 28-60) with neurologic injuries at levels C4-T10 and ASIA scale grades A-D, lasting over a year. Our study assessed the impact of a therapeutic lifestyle intervention (TLI) based on the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and its maintenance phase. The TLI comprised circuit resistance training, a Mediterranean-style calorie-restricted diet, and tailored behavioral support. Key outcomes measured included cardiometabolic risks (plasma analytes and disease biomarkers), anthropometrics (body mass, BMI, tissue composition), global metabolism, fitness (aerobic capacity, peak strength), and health-related quality of life (SF36). Results demonstrated a significant reduction in body mass and BMI by 7.5%, a 7% decrease in total fat mass, and substantial improvements in glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity. Lipid profiles improved, with reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-C, and increased HDL-C. Resting energy expenditure and fat oxidation increased by 27.4% and 58.5%, respectively. Aerobic capacity and dynamic strength also improved significantly. The Physical and Mental Composite Scores of the SF36 improved by 22.8% and 30.5%, respectively. Following the maintenance phase, several positive outcomes persisted, indicating a reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease and comorbid disorders. Our findings support the effectiveness of TLI in reducing cardiometabolic risks, enhancing fitness, and improving healthrelated quality of life in individuals with chronic SCI.

Trial Registration:, ID: NCT02853149 Registered August 2, 2016.

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