Shedding weight makes it easier for older, overweight women to control their bladders when they cough, sneeze or exercise, according to results from a new study published on Wednesday.

More than 13 million U.S. women suffer from some type of urinary incontinence. The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, was designed to assess the conventional wisdom that being overweight contributed to the problem and see if weight reduction helped.

The researchers tested 338 women who reported having 24 instances of leakage per week on average. All were given information on exercises to improve bladder control.

Two-thirds were also put on a Slim-Fast diet. By the six-month mark, they had typically lost 17 pounds (8 kg) and dropped to nearly half as many instances in which they accidentally released urine.

The remaining women, who were given general health information, lost only about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) had their number of incontinence episodes decline by one quarter.

"The more you lose, the greater the effect you have," said Dr. Leslee Subak of the University of California, San Francisco, said in a telephone interview.

Weight loss had the biggest effect on stress incontinence, in which leakage is caused by sneezing, coughing or exercise.

It may have helped women suffering from urge incontinence, caused by overactive bladders that squeeze when they are not supposed to, but those improvements were not statistically significant.

"What it does is provide another option for overweight women to treat their incontinence," said Subak. "There are so many health benefits of weight loss, incontinence may tip them over the edge to try weight loss, and hopefully to maintain the weight loss.

BOSTON, Jan 28 (Reuters Life!)


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