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Carmen Samuel-Hodge Headshot
Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Working with a family member can help adults with type 2 diabetes lose weight and improve their health, according to a UNC study published in the January 2017 issue of Obesity.

Family-centered weight loss interventions have been shown to be effective in both managing diabetes and preventing the onset of diabetes in family members. Investigators with the Family PArtners in Life Style Support (PALS) study, based at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), recognized a particular need for interventions adapted to the social, family, and community contexts of African Americans with diabetes. Family PALS aimed to address this need by developing and testing a family-centered behavioral weight loss intervention for African American adults with type 2 diabetes. The research team was led by Carmen D. Samuel-Hodge, RD, PhD, also a research assistant professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and also included Ziya Gizlice, Gwendolyn Davis, and Thomas C. Keyserling of HPDP. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Adults with type 2 diabetes were paired with a family member who was overweight or obese but not diagnosed with diabetes. The pairs were encouraged to attend weekly group-based sessions together that focused on problem solving and goal setting with regards to weight management. For both diabetes patients and their family partners, weight loss was greater in those who attended more sessions.

“We’ve seen in many behavioral weight loss trials that African American women don’t lose as much weight as other participants. In Family PALS, losing weight with the support of a family member made a difference. Pairs who attended more than 10 sessions together lost about 5.5 pounds more than pairs attending fewer sessions together,” said Samuel-Hodge.

Participants benefited not only from significant weight loss, but also showed greater improvements in other health measures, including hemoglobin A1c, depressive symptoms, family interactions, quality of life, and perceptions of diabetes control.

“These very positive results strongly support the effectiveness of a family-centered approach in African Americans families living with diabetes. We are now much more aware that ‘one size does not fit all’ when it comes to interventions,” said Samuel-Hodge. “What may work better for African American families is pairing family members in lifestyle interventions that target both diabetes prevention and diabetes treatment through modest weight loss.”

To the investigators’ knowledge, Family PALS is the first family-centered weight loss intervention study conducted among African American adults with diabetes. This study establishes the potential that family-centered interventions have to significantly improve weight loss outcomes among African Americans with diabetes.

The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is a Prevention Research Center funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Media Contact: Sonya Sutton,; 919-966-4118

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