News Release

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Women Reduces Urinary Incontinence

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 Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The paper reporting the results of the trial will be published in the January 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Program to Reduce Incontinence by Diet and Exercise (PRIDE), conducted in Birmingham, Alabama, and Providence, Rhode Island, 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 NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D.

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. The PRIDE trial provides evidence supporting weight loss as a treatment for incontinence.

An important finding of the study is the difference between the two groups in the reduction of incontinence. Among women in the weight-loss group, 41 percent achieved a clinically relevant 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. This was assessed through self-reported perceived change in frequency of incontinence, volume of urine loss, the degree to which incontinence was a problem, and satisfaction with the change in incontinence.

“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.”

Co-authors on the PRIDE paper were Deborah Grady, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine at UCSF and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Rena Wing, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, R.I.; Delia Smith West, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, College of Public Health, Little Rock, Ark.; and Frank Franklin, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Weight loss in PRIDE is comparable to that observed in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and in the ongoing Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD), two NIDDK-sponsored clinical trials in people with type 2 diabetes. The PRIDE intensive weight-loss program was modeled after these two trials.

For more information on PRIDE, go to and type NCT00091988 in the search window.

For information on the DPP and Look AHEAD trials, see, and

More information on incontinence in women can be found at

NIDDK, part of NIH, conducts and supports basic and clinical research and research training on some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. The Institute's research interests include: diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition, and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. For more information, visit

The ORWH ( was established to serve as the focal point in the Office of the Director for women’s health research at the NIH. ORWH’s mission is to strengthen and enhance women’s health research and sex/gender studies, ensure that women are appropriately represented in biomedical and biobehavioral research studies supported by NIH, and develop opportunities for the advancement of women in biomedical careers and to support career development for women and men in women’s health research.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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