According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, millions of women experience urinary incontinence. “Some women may lose a few drops of urine while running or coughing. Others may feel a strong, sudden urge to urinate just before losing a large amount of urine,” states information on the website. Now a recent study may offer much-needed relief for incontinent overweight and obese women. Published in the January 29 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (360 [5], 481–90), the study suggests that weight loss can significantly reduce incontinence-related episodes.

The researchers assigned 338 overweight and obese women with at least 10 urinary incontinence episodes per week to one of two groups: a 6-month weight loss program or an education program. Those in the weight loss program participated in diet, exercise and behavior modification. At the end of the study, the weight loss group had a mean weight loss of about 8%. The education-only (control) group managed only a 1.6% weight loss. “After 6 months, the mean weekly number of incontinence episodes decreased by 47% in the intervention group, as compared with 28% in the control group,” stated information from the study. “Earlier research has shown that behavioral weight loss programs have many benefits, including decreasing blood pressure and helping to fight off diabetes. Here we’ve shown that weight loss has a measurable impact on reduced incontinence,” said study co-author Frank Franklin, MD, PhD.